Defence minister A. K. Antony will stress this to his visiting Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov during the 12th meeting of India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) coming on Thursday, said sources.
The delivery of the already much-delayed Vikramaditya was to take place on December 9, as per the re-revised timeline, but crippling engine-boiler malfunctions during sea trials have put paid to the plan. It has been a double whammy for Indian Navy as far as its long-standing ambition to deploy two operational carrier battle groups (CBGs) by 2015 was concerned. First, delivery schedule of the 40,000-ton indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being built at Cochin Shipyard was pushed back to 2018.
And now, it's certain the 44,570-tonne Vikramaditya will not be ready for induction anytime before end-2013 at the earliest. So, India will have to soldier on with its solitary carrier, the over 50-year-old 28,000-ton INS Viraat, for the foreseeable future.
"We will tell the Russians to seriously step up the workforce at the Sevmash shipyard for the refit-repair of Vikramaditya. A leeway of three to four months is provided in the contract after the December delivery date... Beyond that, penalty clauses and liquidity damages could kick in", said a source.
India has already paid $2.33 billion for Vikramaditya's refit, instead of the original $974 million earmarked in the January 2004 contract under which the carrier was to be delivered by August, 2008. New Delhi is spending another $2 billion to induct 45 Russian MiG-29K naval fighters to operate from the decks of Vikramaditya and IAC.
During the delegation-level talks on Thursday, India and Russia will also discuss ongoing projects for 272 Sukhoi-30MKI fighters and 1,657 T-90S main battle tanks. While IAF has so far inducted 160 Sukhois towards getting all 272 by 2018 at a cost of over $12 billion, transfer of technology (ToT) problems continue to plague the T-90S tanks.
India had first ordered 310 tanks for Rs 3,625 crore in 2001, then another 347 for Rs 4,900 crore in 2007. But indigenous manufacture of another 1,000 T-90S tanks has been painfully slow, with the army having just about 710 of the tanks so far.
A source told a news agency: "A state commission has concluded it was necessary to extend the handover date to fall 2013 due to the need to fix all the faults found, including the insulation of the ship's boilers".
The source of the problem, which reduced the ship's maximum speed from a design 29 knots to just 27.9 knots, was due to use of low-grade Chinese-made firebricks in the boiler insulation instead of asbestos, he said. Last week, the Chinese Defense Minister Yan Yujun flatly denied any such locally-made firebricks had been exported to Russia, it was reported.