Project Update: The Vikramaditya is currently undergoing a refit and modernisation program at Severnoye Shipyard in Severodvinsk, Russia. As per Defence Minister A K Anthony, in a written reply in Parliament on 17 May 2007, the vessel is expected to be delivered to the Indian Navy by late 2012. It is expected that ongoing price escalation issues will be resolved in Oct 2009 when a major contract renegotiation should be concluded.
Vessel Type: Aircraft Carrier, Project 1143.
Future Commissions: Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorskhov) - 2012.
Displacement: 45,400 tons.
Dimensions: Length - 283m.
.................Beam - 51m.
.................Draught - 10m.
Complement: 1200 = aircrew.
Originally built as the modified Kiev (Krechyet) Class (Type 1143.4) carrier Baku, she is the last in the series of four Project 1143 air defence ships, officially known as aviation cruisers. The vessel was designed by St. Petersburg's Nevskoye Design Bureau, led by Vassily Anikeyev as a VSTOL (Vertical Short Take-Off and Landing) carrier. She was laid down at the Chernomorsky Shipyard, Nikolayev in December 1978 and was launched on 31 March 1982. Some reports indicate the ship was launched on 17 April 1982. The ship was commissioned in December 1987 (some reports indicate January 1987), nine years after its building started, following sea trials which began in June 1986. The Baku was later renamed as the Admiral Flota Sovietskogo Sojuza Gorshkov (later changed to Admiral Gorshkov) to honour the Russian Navy's and arguably the modern world's greatest naval tactician, Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Sergei Georgievich Gorshkov who retired from Russian Naval service in 1985.
The Admiral Gorshkov was originally designed to carry twelve VSTOL Yak-38 [NATO: Forger] fighters, twelve Ka-27 [NATO: Helix-A] helicopters in the SAR (Search & Rescue) & ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) role and a pair of Ka-31 RLD [NATO: Helix] AEW helicopters. As the Yak-38 was a VSTOL (Vertical Short Take-Off and Landing) aircraft, the need for a long deck was not required and thus the forward area of the deck was fitted with twelve P-500 Bazalt [NATO: SS-N-12 Sandbox] cruise missile launchers and four Antey Kinzhal [NATO: SA-N-9 Gauntlet] surface-to-air missile launchers. When the Yak-38s were phased out of Russian Naval service in 1992, the carrier adopted a new role as a helicopter carrier. The ship suffered extensive damage in 1994 due to a boiler room explosion and a subsequent fire and she was docked at Severodvinsk on 02 February 1994. After extensive repairs she was finally put back to sea in 1995. However, she was withdrawn from service in 1996 and has remained docked at Severodvinsk since. Her sister ships were withdrawn by 1993.
Images and models of Admiral Gorshkov prior to her refit
The vessel was offered for sale to India and negotiations over acquiring the 44,570-tonne aviation cruiser for the Indian Navy have reportedly been on since 1994. The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in December 1998, during a visit by Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, by which India agreed to acquire the carrier and fund a refit & refurbishing program. This program was developed by the Nevskoye Design Bureau and will be carried out at the Severnoye shipyard at Severodvinsk. Preparatory work for the proposed conversion is being carried out at the Northern Machine Building Enterprise at Severodvinsk. In October 2000, during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin, an inter-governmental agreement was signed confirming the acquisition of the vessel. The final contract of delivery was supposed to be signed in October/November 2001, but disagreements over the price of the conversion left the deal hanging.
In February 2002, during the visit of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, acquisition of the aircraft carrier was again discussed, but still a fixed price could not be reached at. Finally on 20 January 2004 in New Delhi, the deal to acquire the aircraft carrier, was signed between Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov and his counterpart, Defence Minister George Fernandes. The deal also consists of nearly 20 separate contracts for new shipboard weapons and technology. The conversion is expected to be completed within five years of contract signature, which results in the Indian Navy receiving the carrier only by 2009, which is around the time the Indian Navy's other aircraft carrier, INS Viraat is expected to retire. However a MoD Press Release, dated 21 July 2004, stated that the vessel is expected to be handed over to the Indian Navy in August 2008. The vessel is to be named as INS Vikramaditya, as per official communication from the Indian Navy.
Conceptual drawings and models of the Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorshkov) after refit
While the aircraft carrier itself is coming for free, a substantial refit will be undertaken to bring the vessel up to modern naval standards. The cost for this refit is estimated to be in the region of $675 to $700 million. A related $740 million contract for 16 carrier-based MiG-29 aircraft has also been signed. The price of the MiG-29 contract was confirmed in an MoD press release, dated 22 December 2004. The contract also includes the full hardware for training maintenance and flying personnel, including simulators and interactive ground and sea based training systems. Delivery of the first aircraft are expected in June 2007 and is expected to commence before the upgrade of the carrier has been completed and before the carrier is transferred to India. An option to acquire 30 additional aircraft by 2015, is also included in the contract. The vessel will also carry a mix of Ka-28 ASW and Ka-31 AEW helicopters.
The conversion plans for the aircraft carrier would see all the armament, including the P-500 Bazalt cruise missile launchers and the four Antey Kinzhal surface-to-air missile launchers fitted on the front of the carrier, removed to make way for a 14.3º bow ski-jump. Two restraining stands will also be fitted, allowing combat aircraft to reach full power before making a ski-jump-assisted short take-off. The ability to launch only one aircraft at a time, might prove to be a hindrance. Under the modernization plan, the 20-ton capacity elevator beside the ship's island superstructure will remain unchanged, but the aft lift will be enlarged and its lift capacity increased to 30 tons. Three arresting gears would be fitted on the aft part of the angled deck, although the model (centre image) displayed above shows four. Navigation and carrier-landing aids would be refitted to support fixed-wing STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) operations including the LAK optical-landing system.
The relative height and size of the "island" is likely to cause severe turbulence issues during flight operations as landing operations could be very tricky.