Needs Air Defense: India's Vikramaditya aircraft carrier arrives in the Indian Navy's area of operation in January. (Agence France-Presse)
NEW DELHI — The Indian Navy has declined, for now, a Russian offer to mount the Kashtan air defense system on India’s INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, and instead will seek a system through open competition, a Defence Ministry source said.
Originally, the former Admiral Gorshkov was to be mounted with an Indo-Israeli air defense system, the long-range surface-to-air missile system, which has been under development by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation since 2007. But technical problems created uncertainty about whether the system would ever be completed, the MoD source said.
During a recent meeting here of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation, Russia offered to mount the Kashtan close-in weapon system to meet the Russian-built carrier’s air defense needs. While the system has not been rejected outright, the Navy says it wants to explore the market for alternate systems.
The Vikramaditya, which went through a refit at Russia’s Sevmash shipyard, sailed to India last month without an air defense system on board. The MoD source said the Navy has made a request to begin the process of acquiring a system.
The Israelis have approached the MoD and made a presentation of the Barak air defense system; the French also have expressed interest in participating in the competition if held, the MoD source said.
An Indian Navy official said the service has faced problems in the timely supply of spares from Russia for several of “their assets,” including submarines, and the lengthy delay in acquiring the carrier drove the decision to decline the Russian offer for Kashtan.
“Better options should be explored for getting weapons for the Russian-built carrier,” the official said.
When asked if the Vikramaditya is vulnerable to enemy attack because it lacks an air defense system, the Navy official said the carrier will function in a group where other frigates and destroyers will provide adequate air defense.
A diplomat with the Russian Embassy here said the offer to mount the Kashtan system on the ship has always been open to the Indian Navy, but it never showed interest in receiving the system.
“The Indian Navy has yet to decide the weapon systems it wants to mount on the Russian carrier, nearly a decade after the deal was inked in 2004,” said Mahindra Singh, a retired Indian Army major general and defense analyst
The Vikramaditya will be fitted with 20mm and 30mm guns along with the air defense system, another Navy official said.
The Navy has one operating 50-year-old aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, whose life has been extended to 2017, when the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier joins the service.