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India puts off sea trials of aircraft carrier Gorshkov

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Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya. Photo: Indian Navy

NEW DELHI (PTI): Sea trials of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, which is getting a face-lift ahead of its induction in the Indian Navy, have been postponed for another five to six months due to the onset of winters in Russia.

"We have to change the trial plans as they can't be held during the winters. So, now we will carry out all the trials to be held in the harbour during the winter and then hold the sea trials after the winter is over," senior Defence Ministry sources told PTI on Sunday.

They said the change in trial plans will not affect the delivery schedule of the aircraft carrier, which India has procured at a cost of USD 2.33 billion. The project has already been delayed by over three years.

As per the earlier schedule, the sea trials were to be conducted starting November but they are now expected to be held only after February-March timeframe, they said.

The progress of the project was reviewed during the visit of Defence Minister A K Antony to Russia on October 5 and 6.

The ship is being refitted at Sevmash shipyard in the Russian White Sea port of Severodvinsk and is expected to be delivered by December 2012.

The original USD 1.5 billion contract signed in 2004 between Russia's state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport and the Indian Navy envisioned that work on the aircraft carrier would be completed in 2008.

Of the contracted amount, USD 750 million was for the retrofit of the carrier, docked at the Sevmash shipyard in northern Russia for the past 12 years.

The balance was for modern weaponry, including MiG-29K Fulcrum aircraft and Ka-27 Helix-A and Ka-31 Helix-B anti-submarine helicopters.

Russia later claimed it had underestimated the scale and the cost of the modernisation and demanded an additional USD 1.2 billion, which New Delhi said was "exorbitant".

India then agreed in 2009 for the USD 2.3 billion price for the aircraft carrier, which is now rechristened INS Vikramaditya.

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