Naval Air: Russia Gets An Ultimatum


December 21, 2011: Senior Indian officials recently visited Russia to remind the Russians, in no uncertain terms, that the INS Vikramaditya (the former Russian Gorshkov), which is being refurbished and upgraded in a Russian shipyard, must be ready on time (March 2012) for sea trials. The Indians had cause for concern. That's because last April the first 152 Indian naval personnel arrived in Russia to begin training on the Vikramaditya. The Indians were there to learn about all the ship's systems so they can instruct the other 1,250 members of the crew. But at the same time the Indian sailors could see exactly what progress the Russians were making on getting the Vikramaditya ready for service. Apparently some of these reports were not encouraging. This led to the high level reminders. The Russians responded by promising to do whatever needed to be done to have the carrier ready in time.

This project is already four years behind schedule and $1.5 billion over the original budget. This has become a major cause of ill-will between Russia and India. This was made worse by revelations that Russian officials were bribing their Indian counterparts to help make up excuses for the delays. This was made public ten months ago when, after a year of investigating the senior naval officer in charge of the aircraft carrier Gorshkov procurement project, it was determined that the officer (commodore, equivalent to U.S. rear admiral, Sukhjinder Singh) was guilty of something and he was dismissed from the navy.

The damage, however, has already been done. Two years ago India agreed, after five years of haggling, to pay Russia an additional $1.3 billion to have the Russian aircraft carrier Gorshkov refurbished to Indian specifications. The original deal was for about a billion dollars. But once the Russians got to work things got complicated, and out of control. Indians are not happy with the cost increase. Commodore Singh was a key part of the negotiations and there were accusations that he was paid off by the Russians to insure that Russia got the best of the deal. But Singh was dismissed mainly because he was found to be having an affair with a Russian woman. There was not enough evidence to prosecute him for corruption. India, however, wanted to send a message, especially in light of how much of a mess the Gorshkov project had become.

Other Indian naval officers have already admitted that they were partially to blame for the Gorshkov fiasco. They admit that when they signed the deal in 2004 Indian engineers had not closely inspected the Gorshkov and agreed, after a cursory inspection, that many electrical and mechanical components buried within the ship's hull were serviceable. It turned out that many of those components were not good-to-go and had to be replaced, at great expense. Shortly after the contract was signed the Russians discovered that the shipyard had misplaced the blueprints for the Gorshkov and things went downhill from there.




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