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India’s Vikramaditya casts anchor off Murmansk

December 06, 2013, 7:45 UTC+3 MURMANSK
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MURMANSK, December 06, 3:30 /ITAR-TASS/. The Indian Navy’s Vikramaditya aircraft carrier cast anchor off in the Kola Bay off Russia’s northern city of Murmansk on Friday, December 6.

The aircraft carrier had run into a storm in the Barents Sea and had to make a stop in the Kola Bay where two other Indian ships, frigate Trikand and tanker Deepak, had dropped anchors earlier. The ships are expected to stay until December 8 and then leave Russia’s territorial waters with the Vikramaditya leading the way.

Russia handed over the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier to the Indian Navy on November 16.

After a complete overhaul, the ship got a new flight deck and a ski-jump ramp for MiG-29K jet fighters, navigation, radar, communication and flight control systems, other equipment and units. Russia also trained an Indian crew of about 1,500 personnel and will build infrastructure for the aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean. The ship is expected to operate for 25-30 years.

Its full water displacement is 45,000 tonnes, maximum length is 283.5 metres and maximum width is 59.8 metres (increased by 8.8 metres from the original ship). The ship can carry 30 aircraft, including MiG-29K het fighters and Ka-27 and Ka-31 helicopters. Its crew is about 2,000 members.

Russia’s Severodvinsk-based defence shipyard Sevmash in the northern Arkhangelsk region, which upgraded the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, will also provide post-warranty services for the ship for the next 20 years.

After the transfer of the ship to the Indian Navy, Sevmash engineers and specialists will provide warranty maintenance services for the aircraft carrier for one year.

During the three-month sea trials the ship demonstrated excellent seaworthiness, speed of 27.9 knots (about 52 kilometres per hour) and manoeuvrability. MiG specialists praised the ski-jump ramp.

All in all, the ship sailed for 19,500 miles during two seasons of sea trials, with 778 flights performed from its deck by aircraft and helicopters.

Russia's Northern Fleet aviation was involved in the sea trials: aircraft and helicopters flew around and over the ship in order to check its radar, air defence, communication and control systems.

During the first stage of the trials in the White Sea, the ship’s physical fields were measured, and the crew practiced fuelling and fresh water replenishing operations.

The ship was initially scheduled to be commissioned on December 4, 2012. However its transfer to India was postponed until the end of 2013 after the problems during the sea trials.

Under a package inter-governmental agreement signed in New Delhi in January 2004, the body of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, later renamed to Vikramaditya, was transferred to India for free subject to its upgrading at Sevmash and armament with Russian aircraft.

The overall cost of the contract was estimated at 1.5 billion U.S. dollars, of which about 974 million U.S. dollars were intended for the conversion of the ship into a full-scale aircraft carrier. All work was supposed to be completed in 2008. However the completion date has been postponed. According to unofficial data, the final cost of the aircraft carrier is 2.3 billion U.S. dollars.

The Admiral Gorshkov was built in Nikolayev under the name of Baku and put to service in the Northern Fleet in 1987. It is 283 metres long, 51 metres wide, with water displacement of over 45,000 tonnes.

The Vikramaditya left Russia’s territorial waters in late November and should arrive in India in late January or early February 2014.

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