The Other Russian Aircraft Carrier – the Costly Conversion of the Admiral Gorshkov to INS Vikramaditya

Admiral Gorshkov prior to conversion

We recently posted about the Chinese conversion of the Russian aircraft carrier Varyag. China is not the only  country looking to surplus Russian aircraft carriers to expand their naval power.  India purchased the surplus carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, from the Russians in 2004.  The ship was notionally free and upgrades and refurbishment were expected to cost $947 million. The ship was supposed to be delivered to the Indian Navy in 2008.  The ship, to be renamed INS Vikramaditya, still has not been delivered and the cost has risen by a factor of three to $2.9 billion.  The ship is now expected to go into service in 2012.

INS Vikramaditya: Waiting for Gorshkov…

Right now, there are 2 major concerns in India. One is slipping timelines. The other concern involves Vikramaditya’s 3-fold cost increase, including worries that Russia will raise it rates yet again once India is deeper into the commitment trap. The carrier purchase has now become the subject of high level diplomacy, involving a shipyard that can’t even execute on commercial contracts. Russian demands continued to raise the price, even as deliveries of India’s new MiG-29K naval fighters got underway. A revised deal was finally signed in March 2010 – but now Russia still has to make good…

Initial reports of delays sparked controversy and denials in India, but subsequent events more than justified them. The INS Viraat’s retirement was moved to 2010-2012 – but it soon became clear that even that might not be late enough. Slow negotiations and steadily-lengthening delivery times quickly pushed delivery of the Gorshkov back to 2010, and then to 2012 or later, even as Russia’s asking price more than doubled. Cost estimates and reports concerning the Gorshkov’s final total now hover in the $2.9 billion range, following the revised project agreement of March 2010.

In many ways, the Vikramaditya story is sadly typical.

The announced delivery date for INS Vikramaditya was August 2008 – an ambitious schedule, but one that would allow the carrier to enter service in 2009, around the time as their 29,000t light carrier INS Viraat (formerly HMS Hermes, last of the Centaur class) was scheduled to retire. The new carrier would berth at the new Indian Navy facility in Karwar, on India’s west coast.

This entry was posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.