Russia completes Indian carrier engine repairs

Moscow, Feb 1 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russia's Sevmash shipyard has fixed the engine problems which caused a delay in the delivery of the refitted aircraft carrier Vikramaditya to the Indian navy last year, a United Shipbuilding Corporation source said Friday.

"All the problems with the boiler insulation have been fixed by Russian specialists with the use of Russian-made components," the source said, adding that the ship will sail for additional sea trials in the White Sea in June.

The Vikramaditya, which is already years past its original 2008 delivery date, was supposed to have been handed over Dec 4, 2012, but sea trials in September revealed the ship's boilers were not fully functional.

The source of the problem, which reduced the ship's maximum speed, was due to use of low-grade Chinese-made firebricks in the boiler insulation instead of asbestos, according to Russian shipbuilders.

Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy director of Russia's Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service (FSVTS), said previously that the carrier will be delivered to India in November 2013.

New Delhi has shown signs of impatience over the Vikramaditya's tortuous refit and, at a meeting in October 2012, demanded compensation from the Russians for the latest delay in delivery, Defense News reported. The Russians rejected that claim, saying the parts which failed had been bought by the Indian Navy.

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony repeated the claim in December.

"Rectification of the defect is likely to take six months. Liquidated Damages (LD) clause for delays in delivery is incorporated in the contract," Antony was quoted as saying. "As per contract, LD is to be ascertained and levied within six months of ship's delivery," he added.

India and Russia signed the original $947 million dollar deal in 2005 for the purchase and refit of the carrier, but delivery has already been delayed twice, pushing up the cost of refurbishing the ship to $2.3 billion.

The Vikramaditya was originally built as the Soviet Project 1143.4 class aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. The Project 1143.4 carriers and a class of destroyers with the same engines suffered a history of boiler failures during their service lives.

The ship was laid down in 1978 at the Nikolayev South shipyard in Ukraine, launched in 1982, and commissioned with the Soviet Navy in 1987. It was renamed after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. In 1994, the Gorshkov sat in dock for a year for repairs after a boiler room explosion. In 1995, it briefly returned to service but was finally withdrawn and put up for sale in 1996.

The ship has a displacement of 45,000 tonnes, and an endurance of 25,000 km at a cruising speed of 18 knots. It will have an air wing consisting of Russian-made MiG-29K jet fighter planes and Kamov Ka-31 early warning radar helicopters.

Some of the MiG-29K fighters have already been delivered to India.

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