The Indian Navy’s Russian-built aircraft carrier Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorshkov) began sea trials early on Friday morning in the White Sea – four years after it was originally due to take to sea again.
The ship was refitted at the Sevmash shipyard in northern Russia. It was originally scheduled to begin sea trials, which will last 120 days, on May 25.
A mixed Russian-Indian crew is on board the vessel, with the Indian sailors learning how to operate the vessel. After initial sea trials in the White Sea the ship will sail to the Barents Sea for exercises with military aircraft.
India and Russia signed a $947 million dollar deal in 2005 for the purchase of the carrier, but delivery has already been delayed twice, pushing up the cost of refurbishing the carrier to $2.3 billion.
Sevmash shipyard director Vladimir Pastukhov, was fired in 2007 over his poor management of the project.
The Vikramaditya was originally built as the Soviet Project 1143.4 class aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.
The ship was laid down in 1978 at the Nikolayev South shipyard in Ukraine, launched in 1982, and commissioned with the Soviet Navy in 1987.
It was renamed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1994, the Admiral Gorshkov sat in dock for a year for repairs after a boiler room explosion. In 1995, it briefly returned to service but was was finally withdrawn and put up for sale in 1996.
The ship has a displacement of 45,000 tons, a maximum speed of 32 knots and an endurance of 13,500 nautical miles (25,000 km) at a cruising speed of 18 knots.
India has already started taking delivery of MiG-29K naval fighter aircraft for the Vikramaditya, as they were ready before the refit was completed. The MiG-29Ks will operate in STOBAR (short take-off but assisted recovery via arresting wires) mode.
The MiG-29K was reportedly selected over the larger and more-capable Su-33 naval fighter because India also hopes to operate them from its smaller, indigenous “Project-71 Air Defense Ship” carriers, according to defenseindustrydaily.com.