File photo: Aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov
INS Vikramaditya, India's largest aircraft carrier, being built by Russia has completed all its trial and will be handed over to the Indian Navy in November, sources told NDTV today.
Originally built as the Admiral Gorshkov in the Soviet Union, the $2.3 billion (Rs. 14,000 crore) aircraft carrier was being reconditioned at a shipyard in Northern Russia. The deal had been signed in 2004, and has been marred by delays. Over the last month, MiG-29 fighter jets that will be deployed on the ship have practiced taking off and landing on its deck.
The ship is expected to arrive in India in January 2014. "If all goes well, the Indian tri-colour will be flying atop the INS Vikramaditya this November, after which it will start its journey to India," a senior Navy officer told NDTV.
The INS Vikramaditya is a major part of India's efforts to quickly build up naval strength as an increasingly assertive China expands its maritime reach.
Problems with the ship's boilers had pushed the delivery date back several times, and the deal had turned into an important test of defence ties between Russia, the world's second-largest arms exporter, and its biggest customer.
A 500-member Indian Navy team, which has been training on-board the INS Vikramaditya had spotted the problem with the warship's boilers in September 2012, especially when the vessel hit top speed of about 30 knots (around 55 kmph).
Once INS Vikramaditya joins the fleet, the Indian Navy will be able operate two carrier groups for a while although its lone carrier, INS Viraat, is over half a century old but is expected to serve till 2018. India's first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant is currently being built at the Cochin shipyard and is expected to join the Navy by 2016.