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India's Russian Carrier on Rocks Again After Sea Trial Snags

RIA Novosti

12:30 17/09/2012 MOSCOW, September 17 (RIA Novosti) - Malfunctions during sea trials of the Indian Navy aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, refitted by a Russian shipyard, will delay the vessel’s handover to India yet again, Kommersant business daily reported on Monday.

The delay is the latest in a string of hold-ups in the refit of the ship, in a defense deal that has become a shipwreck of its own.

The Vikramaditya, formerly the Russian Navy's Admiral Gorshkov, was to have been handed over to India on December 4 after ongoing sea trials following a much-delayed refit that has gone massively over-budget. The deadline has now been postponed again until October 2013.

The problems started when the carrier tried to gain maximum speed.

“Seven out of eight steam boilers of the propulsion machinery were out of order,” an official told Kommersant.

The official, who prepared the Vikramaditya for sea trials, said the reason for the boilers’ failure was that India refused to use asbestos to protect the boilers from heat, fearing that the material was dangerous for the crew.

He said the boilers’ designer had to use firebrick, which proved not sufficiently heatproof.

India and Russia signed a $947 million dollar deal in 2005 for the purchase of the carrier, but delivery has already been delayed twice, pushing up the cost of refurbishing the carrier to $2.3 billion.

Sevmash shipyard director Vladimir Pastukhov was fired in 2007 over his poor management of the project.

The Vikramaditya was originally built as the Soviet Project 1143.4 class aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.

The ship was laid down in 1978 at the Nikolayev South shipyard in Ukraine, launched in 1982, and commissioned with the Soviet Navy in 1987.

It was renamed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1994, the Admiral Gorshkov sat in dock for a year for repairs after a boiler room explosion. In 1995, it briefly returned to service but was was finally withdrawn and put up for sale in 1996.

The ship has a displacement of 45,000 tons, a maximum speed of 32 knots and an endurance of 13,500 nautical miles (25,000 km) at a cruising speed of 18 knots.

India has already started taking delivery of the MiG-29K naval fighter aircraft for the Vikramaditya, as they were ready before the refit was completed. The MiG-29Ks will operate in STOBAR (short take-off but assisted recovery via arresting wires) mode.

The MiG-29K was reportedly selected over the larger and more-capable Su-33 naval fighter because India also hopes to operate them from its smaller, indigenous “Project-71 Air Defense Ship” carriers, according to defenseindustrydaily.com.

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