With the first squadron of carrier-based fly-by-wire MiG-29 K fighters to be formally inducted into the navy next month, India is now keeping its fingers crossed on Russia delivering the 45,000-tonne INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier by 2013 end, after a delay of over five years.
The Admiral Gorshkov warship will be put on trial on Barents Sea between May and July and commissioned by Sevmash shipyard on White Sea in November 2013.
Government sources said the 2012 “boiler furnace brickwork” problem, encountered in seven of the eight boilers, had been rectified and the Naval Headquarters believes that the ship — modification and refitting of which would cost around $2.3 billion — will be on India’s western seaboard by November-December this year.
With India’s sole aircraft carrier — the 54-year-old INS Viraat — undergoing an overhaul and scheduled to join active duty by mid-2013, there is urgency in the acquisition of Vikramaditya as the Chinese PLA Navy will put its aircraft carrier Liaoning on high sea trial this year.
Acquired as junk named Varyag from Ukraine, Liaoning— refurbished at the Dalian shipyard — is expected to acquire combat capability within two years.
As a first step towards formally acquiring Vikramaditya, 16 aircraft of Russian MiG-29 K fighters will be commissioned into the Indian Navy in Goa on May 11.
While this squadron of multi-role fighters will be christened 303 squadron, the navy will acquire another 29 aircraft for its second squadron.
The new aircraft carrier will be based at Karwar in Karnataka under the Western Naval Command and will give India the much needed long legs in the Indian Ocean region.
“The delivery of INS Vikramaditya figured in summit meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Delhi on December 24, 2012. We hope that high sea aviation and speed trials of INS Vikramaditya would be smooth,” said a defence ministry official.