INS Vikramaditya is a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier and the flagship of the Indian Navy built by Russia at a cost of $2.35 billion which entered into service in 2013.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Navy had lots of equipment on its hands which it didn’t have the finances or resources to maintain. To India, this seemed like a perfect opening to buy a new aircraft carrier, and to Russia, a chance to offload equipment it could not maintain. However, the acquisition of the Admiral Gorshkov, which India later renamed the INS Vikramaditya, would prove to be more trouble than it was worth.
In recent days US media 1945 published two articles regarding Indian Navy aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya which was bought from Russia. In these articles author pointed out troubles facing the Indian Navy from the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier and also author compare it to earlier aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy which was delivered by UK INS Vikrant and INS Viraat. Even 1945 raised a question a if India can return this aircraft carrier to Russia.
INS Vikrant and INS Viraat each of which was laid down during the Second World War. Transferred to the Indian Navy during the Cold War, each went on to see roughly 30 additional years of service with the latter only formally decommissioned in March 2017. It could be argued that while older carriers, the Royal Navy built good ships, and New Delhi “got its money’s worth.” Reported by 1945.
Sadly, the same can’t be said of the INS Vikramaditya (R33), which could be compared unfavorably to a used car – and in this case, New Delhi bought someone else’s problem, namely Russia.
Over the course of its refurbishment and service life, the INS Vikramaditya has experienced several major mishaps, some of which were deadly.
In 2016, a gas leak emanating from the ship’s sewage system killed two individuals working on the ship. A 2019 fire on board the ship claimed the life of an officer who was leading firefighting efforts against the conflagration which broke out as the carrier was pulling to port. Most recently, the ship suffered another fire in May 2021. However, no casualties were reported in this fire.
While India’s Navy was eventually able to finally get their hands on the aircraft carrier they had paid dearly for in time, money, and patience, the difficulty in acquiring the INS Vikramaditya from Russia likely left New Delhi hesitant to try sourcing its carriers from other navies in the future.
The author Peter Suciu refers to INS Vikramaditya as a Floating Lemon and said Indian Navy should have consider other options. According to him New Delhi opted to buy a Cold War-era carrier – technically an aircraft cruiser – from a nation that has never shown any aptitude for operating such warships. Yet, India went ahead of the deal and almost certainly has regretted it ever since. If you look at the history of INS Vikramaditya he is not wrong after all, the deal for purchasing the ship, rechristened as INS Vikramaditya, was signed in 2004 by the then NDA government at $974 million which was increased to final price of $2.35 billion in 2010. Originally the ship deliver date was August 2008 but it face 5years of delay and was handed over to India in 2013.
New Delhi and Moscow have long maintained a strategic partnership and Russia remains the largest supplier of military hardware to India. It could be argued that it has been a lopsided partnership, however, and the Vikramaditya is just the biggest example of why the Indian Navy should have considered other options.
For reasons that still boggle the mind, New Delhi opted to buy a Cold War-era carrier – technically an aircraft cruiser – from a nation that has never shown any aptitude for operating such warships. Yet, India went ahead of the deal and almost certainly has regretted it ever since.
It truly did buy a problem warship.
Designed as an improved variant of the Kiev-class – and even considered a separate class due to various improvements that included a phased array radar, extensive electronic warfare installations, and an enlarged command and control suite – the hull was laid down in 1978 at Nikolayev South (Shipyard No.444) in Ukraine. She was launched in 1982 but wasn’t commissioned into the Soviet Navy in December 1987.
That long delay in commissioning was largely caused by software bugs in the new command and control system. She was one of the first Soviet warships to utilize such an advanced computer network system, but it took years to fix all the problems.
That should have been the first of many red flags to come.
Enter the INS Vikramaditya Aircraft Carrier
Rechristened INS Vikramaditya, she was commissioned into the Indian Navy on November 16, 2013, and officially entered service the following June. Throughout much of the Cold War, India was really the only regional power in the Indo-Pacific to operate a true carrier, but it has since lost that advantage as China’s People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has put considerable resources towards its own carrier development.
INS Vikramaditya likely does little to tip the scales in India’s favor.
Instead of a modern carrier, India essentially overpaid for a warship that might have otherwise been sent to the scrap yard. New Delhi has pulled out all stops to keep the warship well-maintained, yet it has been plagued by problems in the past several years. In 2016, two people were killed when a toxic gas leak occurred during maintenance work in the carrier’s sewage treatment plant compartment, while a fire broke out in the boiler room of the aging carrier in April 2019, resulting in the death of a naval officer from smoke inhalation. Several others were injured after fighting the blaze.
A second fire occurred in May 2021, and while there wasn’t serious damage and no one was hurt, it is just another sign that perhaps India should think of replacing this floating money pit. It is unfortunate there is no return policy for warships!
Wisely, India has learned its lessons and has shown that it will likely never again need to buy another nation’s retired carrier. It can now build its own!