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India’s Aircraft Carrier Nightmare Won’t End (Blame Russia and a Fire)

INS Vikramaditya
The Vikramaditya at anchor in the White Sea (Off Russia).

India has long purchased weapons from Russia, despite frequent cost overruns and other problems. And probably the poster child of this issue is the INS Vikramaditya, one very expensive rebuilt aircraft carrier.

“Of all India’s Russian procurement woes, none speak more to the dysfunctional relationship between the two countries than the saga of INS Vikramaditya. In the early 2000s, India went shopping for a new aircraft carrier. What followed was a military-industrial nightmare,” explained the National Interest last year.

The Indian flatop is actually the old Admiral Gorshkov, a Russian carrier that in a previous life was a Soviet carrier known as the Baku. India agreed to acquire the ship in 2004- it was free, with the exception of nearly $1 billion in upgrade costs.

However, those upgrades ended up taking much longer, and costing much more, than originally planned.

The  Vikramaditya has been in service since 2013. But it’s still very expensive.

“Keeping Vikramaditya supplied with spare parts will be a major task in itself. Ten Indian contractors helped to build the carrier, but so did more than 200 other contractors in Russia, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Finland, France, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the U.K. Some countries, particularly Japan, were likely unaware they were exporting parts for a foreign weapons system,” our report last year said.

With all of that said, what has happened with the Vikramaditya since?

NDTV reported in May that a fire took place aboard the carrier.

“The duty staff observed smoke emanating from the part of the warship having accommodation for sailors,” a spokesman said, per the report. “The ship’s duty personnel acted promptly to fight the fire. All personnel on board have been accounted for and no major damage has been reported.” An inquiry into the matter has been ordered.

According to First Post, India’s first-ever Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), the  INS Vikrant, will be commissioned in 2022.

“The IAC boasts of nearly 75 percent indigenous content, from design to steel used in construction, to key weapons and sensors. Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design (DND) has designed the IAC, which will is being built at Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) and will have a displacement of 40,000 tonnes,” the report said.

Until then, the Vikramaditya is the only aircraft carrier in India’s fleet.

“Basin trials of the under-construction #IAC1 conducted successfully @CSL , #Kochi on 30 Nov 20 in presence of VAdm AK Chawla, CinC #SNC and Shri Madhu Nair, CMD. #IAC1 project enters the final phase, sea trials expected early 2021,” A tweet from India’s government said last November.

The new carrier has been attributed to Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” – “self-reliant India” – policy.

India Aircraft Carrier

INS Vikramaditya in Baltic Sea during her trails in 2013.

 Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

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