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India receives aircraft carrier Vikramaditya from Russia

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INS Vikramaditya. An Indian Navy photo

SEVERODVINSK, RUSSIA (BNS): India's maritime capabilities received a major fillip on Saturday when the Russian-built Kiev-class giant aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya was inducted into service after a prolonged wait of over five years.

The 44,570-tonne warship was officially handed over to India at the Sevmash Shipyard in a ceremony attended by Defence Minister A K Antony and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin along with senior government and naval officials of the two countries.

The Russian flag on the vessel was lowered and the flag of the Indian Navy was raised in its place, Ria Novosti news agency reported.

The commissioning documents were signed by deputy director of Russia's arms exporter Rosoboronexport, Igor Sevastyanov and the warship's captain Suraj Berry.

The induction of the refurbished super carrier was originally planned to take place in 2008, but repeated cost overruns and work-related issues prolonged its delivery.

INS Vikramaditya is a Kiev-class aircraft carrier which was commissioned by the Russian Navy in 1987 under the name Baku.

It was later renamed as Admiral Gorshkov and last sailed in 1995 in Russia, before being offered to India.

After almost nine years of negotiations, the initial USD 1.5 billion contract for retrofitting the aircraft carrier and buying 16 MiG-29K, K/UB deck-based fighters, was signed in 2004.

However, cost overruns pushed up the final price of the carrier to USD 2.3 billion.

The behemoth naval ship with a length of 284 metres will deploy the Russian-made MiG-29K naval fighter jets along with the Kamov 31 and Kamov 28 anti-submarine warfare and maritime surveillance helicopters.

The MiG 29-Ks would provide a significant boost to the Navy with their range of over 700 nautical miles, extendable to over 1,900 nautical miles with mid-air refuelling, and an array of weapons like anti-ship missiles, beyond visual range air-to-air missiles and guided bombs and rockets.

The carrier will be escorted to India on a near two-month voyage by a group of warships to secure a safe sail to its base at Karwar on the Arabian Sea coast.

It will be berthed at the Karwar naval base in Karnataka.

With the commissioning of Vikramaditya, the Navy's reach and ability to respond in real time to developing situations in and around its area of responsibility would witness a quantum leap.

Vikramaditya joins the Indian Navy as the second such warship which is also operating aircraft carrier INS Viraat.

(With Agency Inputs)

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