Sandeep Dikshit

Admiral Gorshkov has run into time and cost overruns

Russians seek

$900 million more

for Gorshkov

NEW DELHI: The government admitted in Parliament on Wednesday that several naval deals, including ones with the United States and Russia for warships, were facing rough weather.

While the U.S. amphibious assault ship, ‘USS Trenton’ was purchased merely after a “visual inspection,” the modernisation of the Russian aircraft carrier, ‘Admiral Gorshkov,’ has run into time and cost overruns.

Though Trenton encountered time and cost overrun problems, the difference was not as huge as in the case of Gorshkov. In case of the Trenton, the delay was of six months and the cost overrun amounted to about $5 million. But for Gorshkov, the Russians are seeking an additional $900 million and the ship is likely to be delayed by four years. The Trenton has since been renamed ‘INS Jalashwa’ while the Gorshkov will be known as ‘INS Vikramaditya.’

Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Defence Minister A. K. Antony admitted that the American ship was not only bought after a “joint visual inspection” but was 36 years old and the Navy has assessed its residual life to be above 10 years.

In case of the Gorshkov, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence noted that the delays have been caused because of change in scope of work. “The deal appears to have become fait accompli with little scope of effecting economy,” said its report, adding that instead of three aircraft carriers, India had just one. Even this was to be retired this year when the Gorshkov was expected to arrive. But the sole functioning aircraft carrier would have to be pressed into service for another four years till the Gorshkov is modernised and trials held on the high seas. For Gorshkov, the Russians are seeking an additional $900 million and the ship is likely to be delayed by four years.

But a recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) went beyond the usual time and cost wrangles in case of naval projects by noting that in case of the U.S. ship, “restrictive clauses raise doubts about the real advantages from this deal. For example, there are restrictions on the offensive deployment of the ship and permission would be given to foreign government [the U.S.] to conduct an inspection and inventory of all articles transferred under the end-use monitoring clause of the Letter of Agreement. Given that the ship is of old vintage, Indian Navy would remain dependent upon foreign-based support.” However, a U.S. officially recently refuted these observations.

Undecided

The purchase of another urgently required piece of naval hardware — deep submergence rescue vehicles (DSRV) — has remained undecided after six years.

The ships would be utilised to rescue sailors trapped in a sunken submarine. In its absence, 118 Russian naval personnel met a slow and agonising death after their submarine Kursk sank in the Barents Sea in 2000.

Diving support

The Indian Navy presently operates a diving support vessel which uses a rescue bell to rescue personnel from a submarine in distress. But the bell has depth limitations. As an alternative till the DSRVs are inducted,

India has tie-ups with an advanced navy to provide urgent assistance in case of a mishap. The Navy has 16 submarines and according to a CAG report, the overall operational percentage is dismal mainly because of the age of part of the fleet.