The controversial sea trials of the INS Vikramaditya in Russia, initially described as an embarrassing failure, appear to have actually been a success, while propulsion problems developed by the aircraft carrier are not nearly as serious as reported in the media.
After the ship returned to the Sevmash shipyard a week ago the Indian Navy’s overseeing team, who closely monitored the sea trials, came to the conclusion that the ship had overall done extremely well and the programme of tests had been largely fulfilled.
The results of the trials were analysed and remaining work was detailed in a protocol signed by Vice Admiral Nadella Niranjan Kumar, Controller Warship Production and Acquisition (CWPA).
The main conclusion from the trials is that the INS Vikramaditya has stood the test as a full-fledged highly capable aircraft carrier converted from the former hybrid missile-cum-aviation cruiser Admiral Gorshkov. The ship displayed excellent seaworthiness and manoeuvrability and performed flawlessly during aircraft takeoff and landing. It’s sophisticated radio-electronic, navigation and other systems demonstrated high efficiency and reliability.
The malfunctioning of the boilers that occurred during high-speed tests will not require their replacement or removal from the vessel. The problem has been pinned down to insulation lining that is placed between the boiler steel casing and ceramic firebricks. Traditional asbestos lining was not used at the request of Indian specialists and replacement material developed slight deformation when the boilers were run at full power, causing some firebricks to fall out. The Indian side has now agreed to the use of asbestos cardboard.
The boiler problem did not prevent the INS Vikramaditya from completing the trials. Informed sources told The Hindu that Indian Navy officers were particularly impressed by the flight programme. A MiG-29K and a MiG-29KUB 4++ generation fighters performed 41 impeccable take-offs and landings with full arms payload and additional fuel tanks. The combination of Russia and India-made optical and electronic landing systems enabled the Russian pilots in 70 percent of the landings to hook the second out of three arrestor wires, which is considered a perfect result, the sources said.
The 44000-ton vessel also displayed superior manoeuvrability, performing a 360-degree turn at a minimum radius equal to one-and-a-half hull length at a speed of 18 knots.
Apart from the boilers, defects were also detected in some other equipment, such as refrigerators, nitrogen generators and compressors sourced from German, British, Polish and Indian suppliers who had been picked by the Indian side.
Russian shipbuilders have promised to complete all repairs by the beginning of next year, but since pre-delivery trials in the White Sea can resume only in late May, when sea ice melts away, the Vikramaditya will be handed over to the Indian Navy next autumn instead of this December, the sources said.