New Delhi: India and Russia have agreed to consider an increase in the refit costs for the INS Vikramaditya (ex-Adm Gorshkov) aircraft carrier, according to Indian defence ministry officials. It appears that the final figures agreed upon will be announced in April.
Media reports quote Indian defence secretary, Vijay Singh, freshly returned from inspecting the INS Vikramaditya, berthed at the Sevmash shipyard in north Russia, as saying that there would be "a substantial increase" in the "reworked estimate" for the modernization work on the carrier.
"It should be completed by mid-2010. After that, it will undergo 18 months of extensive sea trials by the Russian navy to ensure all systems are working properly," he said. "The trials will include sailing it out to great distances and operating fighters from the deck."
The 44,570 tonne carrier, renamed the Vikramaditya, was due to replace Indian Navy's INS Viraat (ex-HMS Hermes) carrier, which, still operational, is virtually 50 years old.
Though the defense secretary did not mention any figures, but reports suggest that New Delhi may be willing to cough up an additional $600-800 million for the aircraft carrier.
India contracted to pay $1.5 billion for the refit and air complement of Admiral Gorshkov in 2004. Moscow has since demanded an additional $1.2 billion, which New Delhi has described as being "exorbitant."
The defense secretary also said that vice-admiral, Dilip Deshpande, recently appointed controller of warship production and acquisition, would visit Russia to work out "the essentiality and reasonableness of costs" by the end of March.
After it is has been refitted, the Gorshkov is expected to be seaworthy for another 30 years.
The Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier contract, which state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport signed with the Indian Navy, covers the modernization of the ship and also equipping it with modern weaponry, including MiG-29K Fulcrum aircraft and Ka-27 Helix-A anti-submarine and Ka-31 Helix-B maritime surveillance helicopters.