Russia, after a long delay, handed over to India the refurbished aircraft carrier renamed INS Vikramaditya in a ceremony at the Arctic port of Severodvinsk today.
Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and Indian Defence Minister A K Antony attended the ceremony, in which the refitted carrier – formerly the Admiral Gorshkov – was handed over.
The five-year delay in delivery of the modified carrier, and consequent cost escalations, had led to considerable acrimony between Moscow and New Delhi.
Vikramaditya – named after ancient Indian Gupta dynasty emperor Chandra Gupta II, also called Vikramaditya – is a Project 1143.4 or modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier commissioned by the Soviet Navy in 1987 and decommissioned in 1996 as it was too expensive to operate on a post-Soviet era budget.
India and Russia signed a $947 million deal in 2004 for the carrier, but the original 2008 delivery deadline was delayed twice, more than doubling the cost of refurbishing the ship to $2.3 billion.
The final commissioning papers were signed by deputy director of Russia's arms exporter Rosoboronexport Igor Sevastyanov and the ship's Indian captain Suraj Berry in the presence of the two countries' ministers. Antony is on a four-day visit to Russia.
INS Vikramaditya will be escorted to India by a group of warships to its base in base in the Arabian Sea through a classified route because it does not have any air defence systems on board.
The warship is expected to reach India by February 2014, Russian officials had said earlier.