India’s second aircraft carrier, the 45,000-tonne INS Vikramaditya — a retrofitted Russian carrier formerly named Admiral Gorshkov dating back to the 1980s — has successfully completed sea trial of achieving top speed of 32 knots, reports received from Russia said on Sunday.
It will now head for the White Sea where aviation trials will be conducted, informed sources said. INS Vikramaditya was supposed to have been delivered five years ago, but the Navy is likely to receive it by this year-end.
The extensively modernised Soviet-era carrier had set sail from the Sevmash shipyard for its first comprehensive sea trials in the summer of 2012. Russian MiG-29K fighter pilots had successfully completed take-offs and landings on its deck. The crew tested the aircraft carrier for its top speed but it simply stopped at 30 knots. It turned out that the boilers needed better insulation, which had given way due to extreme temperatures. It took several months to fix the glitch and send the vessel for sea trials again, sources said.
The aircraft carrier, which can easily hold about 30 fighter jets and helicopters, will now go for aviation trials. “Touch-and-go exercises by fighters and various other flight profiles will also be undertaken,” officials said.
The towering 284 metre-long and 60-metre-high Vikramaditya is fitted with modern communication systems, a protective coating, a telephone exchange, pumps, hygiene and galley equipment, lifts and many more facilities. Officials said that at any given time, there would be a 2,000-strong staff on the completely remodelled aircraft carrier, which has an extended flight deck and a full runway. The vessel has new engines, generators, electrical machinery, communication systems and distillation plants.
As India’s requirements grew and the shipyard lagged behind in adhering to schedules, the price of retrofit soared. It is estimated that the final cost would have gone up to around $2.3 billion. India had bought Admiral Gorshkov in 2005 for $947 million, renamed it Vikramaditya and gave it to the Russian shipyard for refitting.
India has taken upon itself to build two more aircraft carriers on its own. The first, the 40,000-tonne Vikrant, is likely to be ready by 2018 and the second, a 65,000-tonne Vishal, due sometime in 2025.
India’s main rival at sea, China, has already carried out flight tests from its carrier Liaoning, another reason why the Navy would not like to suffer any more delays in getting Vikramaditya.