The bilateral relations between India and Russia, predominantly in the field of defence, have a long history to tell. India has been enjoying a strong economic and defence relationship with the region since the Soviet era. Hence, the Indo-Russian relations have witnessed the former being the second largest market for the Russian defence industry.
Under the India–Russia co-operation agreement that was signed in December 1988, India has received a multitude of defence equipment to strengthen its military strength.
India’s biggest military ship, INS Vikramaditya – an aircraft carrier, which was named after a legendary Indian king from Ujjain, is also a result of this strong Indo-Russian relation.
History of INS Vikramaditya
INS Vikramaditya, which refers to one having valour like the Sun, is a former USSR carrier vessel and entered into service with the Indian Navy in 2013.
Launched in the early 1980s, the carrier, which was originally named as Baku, served the Soviet Navy from 1987 to 1991.
However, on account of the dissolution of the Soviet Socialist Republic, the vessel’s utility in the East European bloc did not extend beyond the early 90s. It became too expensive to operate the carrier on a post-Cold War budget.
Thus, the vessel was decommissioned in 1996, after spending four years with the Russian Navy as a carrier named as Admiral Gorshkov. Since then, the government of India had started negotiations with Russia to acquire Admiral Gorshkov.
And, in the year 2004, a very important naval accord was struck between longtime military allies India and Russia to make the aircraft carrier part of the Indian Navy.
As per the terms of this accord, the apparently defunct air force carrier would not only be sold to India but would also be re-equipped with modern arsenal and artillery to suit the Indian naval requirements.
The accord also included the sale of Russian fighter planes MIG 29Ks and MIG 29 KUBs along with appropriate training provided to the fighter pilots. The terms of this accord also stated renovation of the navy ship and equipping it with modern amenities and other naval aid, transforming the vessel form a hybrid carrier to a pure carrier.
According to the deal, post it’s re-equipping, INS Vikramaditya will have a capacitance to carry both fighter planes and helicopters. The latter will include Ka-31 Helix copters and HAL Dhruv copters, in totality between four to 12 copters; while the former includes Sea Harrier fighter planes along with the MIG 29Ks and 29 KUBs, totality between 12 to 16 fighter crafts.
During the refurbishment, which was undertaken by FSUE Sevmash in Russia, a total of 234 new hull sections were constructed using 2500 tonnes of steel that is equal to the standard displacement of a mid-size frigate.
Initially, the agreed deal suggested that India would pay Russia US$800 million for the upgrade and refit of the aircraft carrier, while an additional US$1 billion would be paid for the aircraft and weapons systems.
Though the announced delivery of the vessel was due in 2008, the delays in refurbishment pushed the arrival of the vessel to 2013 and also forced India to pay an additional US$1.2 billion for the carrier.
As per the plan, the refurbished INS Vikramaditya was assigned to replace the Indian Navy’s only light carrier INS Viraat. However, the delay in the delivery of INS Vikramaditya forced the Navy to postpone the retirement of INS Viraat till 2016.
Finally, the modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, joined the fleet of Indian Navy in 2013 after being commissioned in November at a ceremony held at Russia. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had formally inducted the aircraft carrier into the Indian Navy in June 2014.
Specifications and Features of INS Vikramaditya
INS Vikramaditya, the Indian Navy’s only operational aircraft carrier at present, has an overall length of about 284 meters (930 ft) and a maximum beam of about 60 meters (196 ft).
With a displacement of 45,000 tonnes, the warship is capable of carrying over 30 aircraft and helicopters. Featuring a total of 22 decks, the carrier has the capacity to accommodate more than 1,600 personnel on board, including officers and sailors.
Powered by eight boilers that produce a combined thrust of 1,80,000 Shaft Horsepower, the warship can propel at a speed of over 30 knots.
Moreover, having a capacity of more than 8,000 tonnes of LSHSD, INS Vikramaditya will be able to perform operations up to a range of over 13000 km. With six turbo alternators and six diesel alternators on board, the warship will also receive total electricity of 18 megawatts in order to fulfil its requirements.
With the extensive refit and modernization process conducted before joining the Indian Navy, INS Vikramaditya has the capability to house aircraft such as MiG-29Ks and Sea Harrier fighter jets, and also helicopters including Kamov, Sea King, Dhruv and Chetak.
The MiG-29Ks, a fourth generation air superiority fighter, features a range of weapons such as Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missiles and anti-ship missiles, as well as guided bombs and rockets.
The Kamov Ka-31 on board the vessel will be placed on the role of airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system. This Modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier also has a set of advanced sensors including Long range Air Surveillance Radars, Advanced Electronic Warfare Suite, enabling the vessel to bring more than 500 km area around the ship under its surveillance.
The new giant warship of the Indian Navy also features a state of the art launch and recovery systems, for the smooth operation of the aircraft. It includes the LUNA Landing system for MiGs, Flight deck lighting systems and DAPS Landing system for Sea Harriers.
Also, there are three arrester wires on board to help pilots for landing on the carrier. In addition, the warship is the first Indian aircraft carrier of the Short Takeoff but Assisted Recovery (STOBAR) category since it has the capacity to position the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) on its board.
INS Vikramaditya ship also features the Computer-aided Action Information Organisation (CAIO) system, named LESORUB-E, which helps gather data from the carrier’s sensors and data links in a bid to support fighter control and direction.
The Resistor-E radar complex that is designed to offer air traffic control, approach/landing and short-range navigation for its aircraft, and the presence of modern communication complex, CCS MK II, as well as Link II tactical data system, also strengthen the capacity of the warship.
Being an efficient naval warship, INS Vikramaditya ship is capable of operating both in offensive and defensive modes with the support of as frigates, missile boats and attack submarines on board the vessel.
Moreover, this aircraft carrier of Indian Navy has the capacity and amenities to act as hospital ships, humanitarian relief & disaster relief (HADR) platforms and survey vessels during accidents and natural calamities, and also research purposes.
Other Interesting facts about INS Vikramaditya
In addition to the officers and sailors assigned to the warship, INS Vikramaditya currently houses around 200 Russian military personals as per the agreement between India and Russia.
These Russian officers are helping and training the Indian counterparts to operate this active aircraft that was once a member of the Russian fleet.
When it comes to accommodating people, Vikramaditya turns herself into a ‘floating city’ since it has the capacity to meet a huge logistics requirement.
The warship, which can sustain at the ocean for a period of about 45 days, can store around a lakh of eggs, 20,000 litres of milk and 16 tonnes of rice per month in order to feed its inmates. In addition, the vessel has two Reverse Osmosis plants that offer an uninterrupted supply of 400 tons of fresh water every day.
INS Vikramaditya is the first ever warship to have an ATM on board. The vessel houses an ATM, which is operating through a satellite link, of State Bank of India to save time and resources. This helps sailors to avoid travelling kilometres in search of the ATM facilities when the vessel homeported at the Karwar Port, located on the western coast.
In June 2016, INS Vikramaditya reportedly met with an accident while undergoing a scheduled major refit at Karwar naval base.
A sailor and a civilian worker were killed due to a toxic gas leak that happened during maintenance work in the Sewage Treatment Plant compartment of the warship. Two people were also injured in the accident. And, in February this year, a Mig-29K aircraft, which took off from the carrier, had made an emergency landing at Mangalore because of hydraulic failure.
Despite the delays and controversies, the arrival of INS Vikramaditya has added a unique shine and pride to the history of the Indian naval force. The acquisition of INS Vikramaditya was part of the Indian Navy’s plan to strengthen its capabilities and secure its vast coastline.
The navy believes that this addition would be a “game-changer” as it brings transformational capabilities to the force. With the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant is expected to join the fleet within a few years, the Indian Navy will emerge as one of the strongest in Asia region.
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