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Massive Engine Failure
by James Dunnigan
October 1, 2012

On September 18th Russia told India that delivery of the refurbished Russian carrier Admiral Gorshkov (since renamed the INS Vikramaditya) would be delayed ten months. The problem is that seven of eight steam boilers in the carrier power plant failed during recent high-speed trials. The Russians blame India for this, as the Indians refused to allow the Russians to use asbestos to insulate the steam boilers. Instead the Russians had to use firebrick which, as some engineers suspected, was not adequate. Now extensive work has to be done on the engines to rectify the problem.

India is not happy with yet another delay. The Gorshkov served in the Russian Navy from 1987 to 1995, but was then withdrawn from service because the navy could not afford to keep the carrier operational. Gorshkov was put up for sale and in 2005, India agreed to buy a refurbished Gorshkov.

The engine problem was discovered during the sea trials that have been under way for several months off the north coast (Barents Sea) of Russia. In all other respects the ship appears to be in working order. For example, two months ago the carrier experienced its first landing, by a MiG-29. However, the sea trials had been delayed over a month by bad weather.

India paid over $2 billion to refurbish the Gorshkov. Some of the Indian crew has been working with the Vikramaditya for over a year, learning about all the ship's systems, and now most of the other 1,250 members of the crew are present. India was supposed to take possession of the INS Vikramaditya by late 2012, but that was recently delayed until early 2013, and is now delayed until late 2013. This project is now five years behind schedule and $1.5 billion over the original budget. It is a major cause of ill-will between Russia and India.


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