The refurbished aircraft carrier Vikramaditya reportedly began its long-delayed sea trials June 8, leaving its Sevmash shipyard in northern Russia and heading for the White Sea.
The Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported the ship, with a mixed Russian-Indian crew, was underway after a series of delays and postponements.
Once planned for delivery to India in 2008, the carrier, formerly the Russian Navy’s Admiral Gorshkov, overcame its latest delay after the shipbuilders said in mid-May they were aiming for a May 25 trials date. According to the Sevmash website, an inclining experiment to measure the ship’s stability was carried out shortly before the sea trials.
If no further delays are encountered, the ship is expected to be delivered to the Indian Navy in December.
According to RIA Novosti, a trials program of 120 days has been scheduled. After sea trials in the White Sea, the Vikramaditya is to move to the Barents Sea for trials with aircraft.
The Cold War-era ship was built in Ukraine for the old Soviet Navy and first commissioned in 1987 after nine years of construction. Known as Project 1143.4, the ship was a modified version of the Soviet Navy’s Kiev-class aircraft carrier, and featured an angled flight deck operating vertical or-short-takeoff-and-landing jet aircraft and helicopters. The forward deck was originally covered with missile launchers.
But after a $2.3 billion conversion at Sevmash — originally contracted in 2005 for $943 million — the ship now sports a full flight deck tipped by a ski-jump, allowing aircraft to take off without needing catapults. The rebuilt Vikramaditya displaces 45,400 tons, has an overall length of 928 feet with a beam over the flight deck of 167 feet.
India plans to operate navalized MiG-29K fighters from the Vikramaditya, a major jump in capability from the Sea Harriers now flying from the much smaller Viraat, India’s only operational carrier.
India is also building the first of a new class of aircraft carrier at Cochin Shipyard in Kochi. The first Project 71 ship, expected to be named Vikrant, was floated out in December.