Dehradun: The 48,500-ton refurbished aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya (ex-Admiral Gorshkov), will be inducted into the Indian Navy in the latter half of 2008, according to Indian Navy's chief of naval staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta.
"We are inducting Gorshkov by the latter part of the next year," Adm Mehta told reporters after reviewing the passing out parade at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) here.
The passing out parade saw the largest single batch of 649 cadets, including 24 foreigners, passing out of the IMA. The number included 24 cadets from friendly nations like Tajikistan, Bhutan and Mauritius.
The institution is also celebrating its platinum jubilee this year.
The march past took place on the drill square in front of the historic Chetwode building. Traditionally, Indian cadets take the 'final step' through the portal of the building to mark their commissioning as officers into the Indian Army.
Meanwhile, on the subject of maritime surveillance, Adm Mehta said that the Navy was finalising a proposal for the purchase of suitable equipment from abroad to enhance its capabilities in the area
"Modernisation plans of the navy are on the right track. We have moved far ahead in our modernization plans," he said.
Providing an overview, Adm Mehta also said that the Navy would be adding 40 new ships in the near future.
"For this purpose, orders have already been placed for building 33 new ships in Indian yards while six ships are being purchased from abroad," he said. "The order-book of all the Indian yards is full," he said, adding that the budget allocation for the purchase of new ships has already been made. Besides this, India would also be buying six submarines.
The Navy presently has 136 warships.
Reasons for the delay
Meanwhile, Russian media reports are now putting forward a number of reasons for the delay in the Vikramaditya/Admiral Gorshkov contract. According to reports emerging in the Russian press, a lot of time was spent on identifying weapon systems, eliminating defects in the ship, and also in arranging finance for the entire operation.
Over the years, since 2004, the cost of materials, components and spare parts has gone up as well, along with labour costs. According to these reports, Moscow would now like New Delhi to provide additional funding, as the Sevmashpredpriyatiye yard, the prime contractor, is now facing trouble trying to fulfill the contract, as it is a loss making concern and is beset with a number of problems.
According to Russian commentators, though the Indians may be on a sure footing, as far as terms and conditions of the Gorshkov contract are concerned, the fact remains that the cash-starved Sevmashpredpriyatiye works needs more money in order to fulfill the order. They suggest that there was a genuine danger that delivery of the carrier would indeed be delayed - possibly till 2010 - if additional funding were denied to the yard.
These reports also suggest that Indian Navy personnel, who are in the loop as far as the INS Vikramaditya is concerned, have apparently reacted with understanding with respect to the problems faced by the yard. According to these reports, Russian government sources are hopeful that the problems related to cost escalation would not affect bilateral relations.
The refurbished modified Kiev class, Admiral Gorshkov, was originally built as the Type 1143.4 carrier Baku - the last in a series of four Project 1143 air defence ships. The Baku was later renamed as the Admiral Gorshkov to honour the Russian Navy's, and many would argue, 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.
Out of action since 1988, the aircraft carrier itself has been given to the Indian Navy for free. It is however undergoing a substantial refit, at an estimated cost of $675- 700 million that intends to bring the vessel up to modern naval standards.
A related $740 million contract for 16 carrier-based MiG-29K fighter aircraft, and three MiG-29KUB trainers, has also been entered into by the Indian Navy at a cost of $740 million. An option for the supply of 30 additional aircraft by 2015, is also included in the contract.
The vessel will also carry a mix of eight Ka-28 ASW and Ka-31 AEW helicopters.
The refurbished carrier will also see the installation of a 14.3º bow ski-jump in the fore section of the ship. The 273-meter long warship displaces 48,500 tons, has a beam of 49 meters and a 10.2-meter draught. It can reportedly cruise along at 30.7 knots.
The 280-meter flight deck will have a 198-meter runway that will operate the MiG-29K naval variants of the MiG-29SMT supersonic fighters, which are currently being operated by the Indian Air Force.
The top-deck aircraft parking area will measure 2,400 square meters and the 24-meter-wide runway will feature three arrester wires. There will also be a 130 by 23 by 5.7-meter hangar below the deck, which will have a 30-ton, 18.91 by 9.96-meter, lift located amidships, left of the island superstructure, and a 20-ton, 18.91 by 8.65-meter, lift behind the superstructure and in front of the arrester wires.
The Nevskoye Design Bureau in St. Petersburg, which had developed the original design of the Admiral Gorshkov, submitted new designs for the modernization project. These are now being implemented by the Sevmashpredpriyatiye yard (Northern Engineering Works) in Severodvinsk, in the northern Arkhangelsk region of Russia. Severodvinsk is also a major submarine construction center for Russia.
The refurbished Gorshkov will reportedly have a sea-endurance of 30 days, and carry a complement of around 1,610 sailors. The carrier was purchased by India in 2004, after years of negotiations and the agreement visualizes the delivery of the refurbished carrier sometime in 2008, that is four years after the signing of the contract. Originally reports suggested that the carrier was supposed to be handed over three years after the signing of the contract.
Meanwhile, in early May, an Indian naval delegation, led by vice admiral BS Randhawa, controller of warship production and acquisition, visited Severodvinsk, a major submarine construction centre in the, northern Russia, and carried out inspection of the on going work on the carrier, Gorshkov, which is now being transformed as the INS Vikramaditya, at the Northern Engineering Works.
According to Russian media reports, vice admiral Randhawa, expressed his pleasure at the way work had progressed so far. According to reports, though the refurbishment work is somewhat delayed, vice admiral Randhawa did mention that this was an extremely difficult project, and was likely to face problems from time to time.
From the reports, it would appear that vice admiral Randhawa appeared satisfied at the way the shipyard was handling its responsibilities, and also the manner in which it was trying to meet deadlines.
Reports in the Russian media now suggest that the newly developed MiG-29KUB deck trainer/combat aircraft may have received substantial inputs from Indian designers, and certainly incorporates all specifications, as put forward by the Indian Navy. According to these reports, the KUB may even exceed standards as they prevail in the global aircraft industry in many respects.
The Indian team has worked with the Russian team in integrating foreign electronics into the fighter, developing simulators for the aircraft, and also in choosing appropriate weapon systems.
According to Nikolai Buntin, chief designer of the MiG-29KUB, the MiG-29-KUB's avionics systems feature the French-made Thales TopSight helmet-borne sighting device, and the Sagem Sigma-95 laser-gyroscope inertial navigation system. The Thales TopSight system is a shock-resistant helmet that will protect the pilot even if a bird hit should shatter the cockpit canopy.
A movement of the pilot's head is also sufficient to activate the system.
The KUB's avionics uses a unique open-architecture and modular-system that will forestall obsolescence over the coming 10-15 years. The system will require the replacement only of separate components, as and when the need arises.
The KUB's avionics system is an upgraded version of the one installed on the MiG-29 SMT fighter, now serving with the Indian Air Force. According to Nikolai Buntin, the MiG-29K has a more sophisticated multiplex bus as compared to other Russian planes being sold elsewhere, such as the Su-30 series, including the MKI now serving with the Indian Air Force.
According to Buntin, the MiG-29KUB's vital systems feature fibre-optic communications channels, which expedite data-exchange speeds by 100 times, allowing the pilot to outmaneuver and outgun the enemy. No MiG warplane, Buntin says, has ever operated with a high-speed data-exchange channel before.
All three multi-purpose MFI10-6 data screens in the MiG-29KUB's front and rear cockpits, the IKSH-1K heads-up display (HUD) and the Thales TopSight sighting device/target-acquisition system, receive video information from the Fazotron-NIIR radar, the new-generation Zhuk-ME optronic radar, other sighting and electronic warfare systems and the built-in, digital, terrain contour matching (TERCOM) map, along fibre optic channels.
The wide-angle sighting and navigation system, developed by the Ramenskoye PKB avionics design bureau, features a revamped BCVM486-3M computer with a 486DX processor and a 90 MHz tact frequency, as well as indicators and consoles. The system, which is the heart of the MIG-29K's avionics system, also integrates other systems.
The IKSH-1K (Russian acronym for Wide-Format Collimator Ship Indicator) heads-up display, featured on the MiG-29K has never been installed on Russian planes before. The more noted Russian aircraft exports, such as the Su-30MKI and the Su-30MKM (Chinese version), feature Israeli and French E1OP and Thales systems. According to Buntin, the brighter Russian HUDs display teletext data and allow the pilot to take aim through these systems round the clock, even against targets obscured by the glaring sun.
As for engines, the first MiG-29KUB, which was shown to the Indians in 2005, featured experimental RD-33MK engines, developed during that period. Since then, the Klimov Plant, the engine's manufacturer, has upgraded the performance level of the engine considerably, increasing the engine's total service life to 4,000 hours, with an overhaul taking place after every 1,000 hours of operations.
The new version also provides 9,000 kilogram-force thrust in the afterburner mode.
According to the director general of the Klimov plant, Alexander Vatagin, the production series of the engines would differ in terms of maximum thrust, smoke levels and radar visibility from those installed on the prototype plane. According to Vatagin, the engine would have brand-new hot section components, a new accessory box and a FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) system for greater dependability and failsafe operation.
Vatagin has expressed confidence that the Indian Navy would receive aircraft with engines that completely match the request for proposal (RFP), specific recommendations and comments made during bench and flight tests.
Apart from standard missiles, the MiG-29-KUB will also be equipped to carry the Indo-Russian BrahMos anti-ship cruise missile.
While the Indian Navy would receive delivery of the 16 MiG-29K (12 K's + 4 KUB's) as per schedule - that is starting this year - deliveries on its options for an additional 30 aircraft will only begin from 2010, according to Vatagin, if orders were to be confirmed now.