Russia further delays delivery of Admiral Gorshkov to India

      Russia on Wednesday announced that there would be further delay in delivering the trouble-plagued aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov to India. Moscow said that it would take at least a year for the aircraft carrier to be delivered to the Indian Navy. The news is a blow to India's efforts to quickly build up its naval strength, as increasingly assertive China expands its maritime reach.

The 2.3 billion dollar aircraft carrier is being reconditioned and was due to be ready this year, but problems with the ship's boilers have pushed the delivery date back several times. Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said at a joint news conference with his Indian counterpart A.K. Antony, that the delivery of the Admiral Gorshkov would happen in the fourth quarter of 2013, and was a top priority for Russia. “In the naval domain, we have produced a frigate for the needs of the Indian Navy. We have delivered it to the port at Mumbai this year. By the end of this year, we are expecting to deliver another frigate, and then the third will come in 2013. But of course, the utmost attention is placed upon refitting and refurbishing the heavy aircraft carrying cruiser, the Admiral Gorshkov,” Serdyukov added.

The Admiral Gorshkov is to be renamed as the INS Vikramaditya and the success of the order is seen as an important test of defence ties between Russia , the world's second-largest arms exporter, and its biggest customer. India , a big buyer of Soviet Union weaponry, still relies on Russia for 60 percent of its arms purchases, but has diversified its suppliers in recent years. Israel is now the No. 2 seller, and countries like the United States and France also increasing their presence. India is closely watching the Chinese Navy's newly assertive stance in the South China Sea and in a dispute with Japan over contested islands that have raised tensions in East Asia this year.

Wary of China's might, a host of south-east Asian nations have ramped up their maritime defence spending. Antony said he had conveyed "serious concern" at the delays to Serdyukov. He said he was putting pressure on both sides to finish work on the boilers as soon as possible, but said he had not discussed penalising Russia so far. “The Admiral Gorshkov is the most important concern of India and our government, and also the navy. In all our meetings, we have conveyed our serious concern about the delay,” Antony said. The bilateral meeting precedes a visit by Russian President Putin to New Delhi on November 1. India bought its first, British-built aircraft carrier in the 1960s, which was decommissioned in 1997.

Another ex-British carrier, the INS Viraat, is in operation but is reaching the end of its useful service. Last month, at a time of high tensions with Japan over the islands, China put its first-ever aircraft carrier, the Liaoning , into service. Itself a reconditioned vessel from the Ukraine, the Liaoning will be used mostly for training and testing ahead of the possible launch of China 's first domestically built carriers after 2015, analysts say. India plans to spend about 100 billion dollars over the next 10 years to upgrade its largely Soviet-era military equipment.

Apart from Vikramaditya, traditional India is also buying or planning to buy stealth fighters, warships, nuclear-powered submarines and tanks from Russia. Serdyukov said that production of the fifth generation stealth fighter, the Sukhoi T-50, which it is jointly developing with India, is expected to start in 2020. He said 1,000 units of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, another joint venture, are being built. He said a new faster version of the weapon, which can reportedly travel at seven times the speed of sound, is being developed.

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