Friday, October 9, 2009

India and Russia expected to finalized deal for aircraft carrier next week


After years of prolonged negotiations, India may finally ink a fresh deal with Russia to refit aircraft carrier ‘Admiral Gorshkov’ at a higher price during Defence Minister A K Antony’s visit to Moscow next week. The price negotiation is believed to have been closed in August when a Russian delegation visited New Delhi. The Indian delegation toured Savmash dockyard and discussed the escalated price with the Russian team in June.

Russia had demanded $2.9 billion as against the 2004 contracted price of $974 million. The Cabinet Committee on Security is understood to have approved additional payment for the carrier, though the amount has not been divulged. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report in July said, the Centre was likely to pay $1.82 billion out of which $ 522 million has been earmarked for sea trials for which a meagre provision of $27 million was made in the original contract signed in 2004. But the additional payment could actually be more as the CAG was denied access to Gorshkov papers in the last one year.

Russia blamed non-payment of additional amounts in the last two years for slow down in the refit work. The work pace can be accelerated once the money is committed. Both sides have agreed on an updated schedule for sea trial of the carrier, which will be renamed ‘INS Vikramaditya’. The carrier is to undergo trial by 2011-12 and commissioned by 2014.

In the absence of a new aircraft carrier, the ageing ‘INS Viraat’ has been refitted once again to sustain for another five years by which ‘Admiral Gorshkov should be ready. During his three day official tour, Antony will also review the progresses made in other joint projects like indigenous manufacture of T-90 tanks, upgrading Su-30 MKI fleet, development of next generation hypersonic cruise missile called Brahmos-2, fifth generation fighter and medium lift transport aircraft.

Antony is likely to emphasise New Delhi’s interest in ensuring that the development phase of the fifth generation fighter is completed by 2016, as originally anticipated, so that the induction of the aircraft into the IAF can begin by 2017. India and Russia are likely to finalise a joint venture company — in the line of Brahmos — which would design, develop and produce the medium-lift transport aircraft in the 15-20 tonne class.

Manmohan’s visit

The Defence Minister is also expected to complete the ground work for the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s forthcoming visit to Russia in December for a Summit meeting with President Dimitri Medvedev.

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