Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When will India get the Admiral Gorshkov?

India's buying spree has run into some serious hurdles. It had planned to  spending $2.5 Billion on an  bsolete Aircraft Career that even the mighty Russian Empire could not afford to operate. Moscow has jacked up the price several times and now it is around $3 Billion.

It would be worthwhile in this context to narrate Indo-Russian defence relations briefly. The relations dated back to the heydays of the cold war when the economic and defence capability of India, surrounded by hostile powers, was at a poor shape. The then Soviet assistance was timely. Its willingness to come closer as reflected in the friendship treaty of 1971 was noteworthy. Whether it was the establishment of heavy industries or the issue of securing national sovereignty and integrity, the Soviet assistance was phenomenal.

In fact, India's army would be unimaginable without the Soviet/Russian weapons. Intellibriefs $2.5 Billion or the $4 Billion spent on Aircraft Carriers will not make India a superpower, and any pretenses of this need to be nipped in the bud by the latest book on the subject by Paragh Khanna. "India has missed the boat" on that count.

Bharat is hemmed in towards the East by the Strats of Malacca by Chinese Naval bases in Burma and Hainan. Bharat cannot contol the Chinese, either from the East, the West or the South. India has only a few Boeing P-8 US-made Submarine Hunter planes and one decrepid and obsolete Aircraft Carrier. The declining Indo-Russian relationship leaves Delhi scrambling for new arms sources—but they come with strings. Delhi's deal with Russia about an Aircraft Carrier will probably never go through.

India: $3.2 for obsolete aircraft carrier while millions starve. The Indo-Russian relationship is not what it used to be. Russia elides India in Flanker Su-30 development. The race is on. Both China and Bharat have started indigenous production of Aircarft carriers.

In typical Indian fashion, the keel was laid  with much pomp and ceremony. In typical Chinese stoic demeanor, the Chinese Aircraft Carrier in production is the subject of much speculation in the West and in Delhi. Delhi will get the first glimpse of the Chinese fleet of Aircraft Carriers when they sail from Gwader to Hainan. As Bharat waves goodbye to its hallucinating dreams of superpower status, the writing on the wall for Delhi is clear–the oceans surrounding Delhi are fast becoming Chinese Lakes.

"Waving Goodbye to Hegemony" By Parag Khanna: Dawn of a multipolar world with China and Europe and maybe Russia. N C Bipindra Chaubattia (Uttarakhand), Oct 24 Russia today defended the delays in joint defence projects with India, including the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, saying it should be "excused" if sophisticated and modern weapons systems was what New Delhi wanted.Though time overruns were "unfortunate," Russian Federation Ambassador to India Alexander M Kadakin said it was the experience in both countries when it came to latest technology defence equipment projects."

As far as Admiral Gorshkov is concerned, Indians asked us for a state-of-the-art warship and for such a warship, there is a cost. For a cheap price, you can only purchase a 3-carat diamond. "Now it will be a modern aircraft carrier and if there is a delay of two or three months for delivery, what difference would it make. If you need a potent warship, these delays have to be excused," Kadakin told reporters on the sidelines of an Indo-Russian army exercise that ended here.India had flagged the delays in critical defence projects such as Gorshkov during the recent bilateral Military Technical Commission meeting between the Defence Ministers of the two countries in New Delhi.

Admiral Gorshkov, which India bought from Russia in 2004, is already behind schedule by two years, having been originally scheduled to be delivered after a refit at the Sevmash naval shipyard in Russia in 2008. Now the 45,000-tonne warship is rescheduled for delivery in end of 2012 or early 2013, though India coughed up USD 2.33 billion earlier this year after it had bought it for a price of USD 974 million under the original contract. Kadakin said such experiences existed in both countries and that it should be excused when the project involved sophisticated systems."Both countries have this experience that without delays we will not get such sophisticated systems.

That is why sometimes this kind of delays do happen. It is unfortunate," he said.He was replying to a query on delays in major defence projects between India and Russia such as the Admiral Gorshkov, which has been rechristened by Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya. (PTI) The Admiral Gorshkov entered service in 1987, but was inactivated in 1996 (too expensive to operate on a post Cold War budget). The Indian deal was made in 2004, and the carrier was to be ready by 2008.

But a year ago reports began coming out of Russia that the shipyard doing the work, Sevmash, had seriously miscalculated the cost of the project. The revised costs were more like $1.1 billion for the $700 million refurb. The situation proceeded to get worse, with Sevmash reporting ever increasing costs to refurbish the carrier. The Indians were not happy, and at first insisted that the Russian government (which owns many of the entities involved) make good on the original deal.

India sent its own team of technical experts to Russia, and their report apparently confirmed what the Russians reported, about shipyard officials low-balling the cost of the work needed. This is a common tactic for firms building weapons for their own country. It gets more complicated when you try to pull that sort of thing on a foreign customer. The Russian government will cover some of the overrun cost. The Sevmash managers who negotiated the low bid are being prosecuted. Once refurbished, the Gorshkov, renamed INS Vikramaditya, should be good for about 10 years of service–though the Bharatis may drag it out for thirty years–just to show that the Bharat has an Aircraft Carrier.


Is this Carrier really worth the cost and the time? Should we not look for another concept? We need to have a lighter system that can resposnd quickly with VSTOLS, Choppers and troops and a Hospital and be able to respond to natural disasters. A similar concept perhaps to the New Zealnd OPVs.

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