Naval Air: And Then There Were Four


November 15, 2008: India will join the United States, Russia and China by building a land based landing field in the same shape as an aircraft carrier. The SBTF (shore-based training facility) will be built outside the west coast port city of Goa. This will be used to train pilots to land on carriers. India is getting its first four MiG-29K fighters soon. These aircraft are modified to operate from carriers. The remaining twelve MiG-29Ks will arrive by the end of 2009.

India will receive therefurbished Russian aircraft carrier Gorshkov in 2012. This deal will cost $2.5 billion. Thisincludes the purchase of the poorly maintained Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, and Russian shipyards performing repairs, modifications and upgrades. Then there was the $800 million cost of aircraft, weapons and equipment. Building a Gorshkovtype carrier today would cost about $4 billion, and take several years more.

The Admiral Gorshkov entered service in 1987, but was inactivated in 1996, as 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.

Once refurbished, the Gorshkov, renamedINS Vikramaditya, should be good for about 30 years of service. That's because, after the refit, 70 percent of the ships equipment will be new, and the rest refurbished.It will operate sixteen navalized MiG-29 fighters, plus some helicopters. India wants the Gorshkov in service before 2012, because that's when it's existing carrier (the 29,000 ton INS Viraat) is to be retired. If the MiG-29K is successful on the Vikramaditya, these aircraft will be used on other carriers India is building.


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