Gorshkov to Vikramaditya(1): India's second most delayed acquisition project Featured

  • Wednesday, Oct 30 2013

New Delhi: Admiral Gorshkov, the refurbished aircrafat carrier, which is to be delivered to India on November 16, will become the second most delayed defence acquisition project after the Hawk Jet trainer deal, that took more than 25 years to complete.  

Interestingly contract for the both projects were signed during the NDA regime and were being concluded while UPA in power. It took more than 25 years for the Hawk deal to fructify while the aircraft carrier will be handed over to India after 19 years of process, which started in August 1995 with first Indian Navy’s delegation visit to Russia to inspect the condition of the Ship which used to be a heavy cruiser at that point of time.

A year before the Indian delegation first time embarked on it, the ship had caught a major fire and Russian navy was keen to get rid of it. The ship had spent just a decade in the service of the Russian Navy till then.

Indian Navy was to decommission its first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant and was looking for the second ship to fill the gap. The second aircraft carrier of the fleet INS Virat was scheduled to be decommissioned in 2007, at that time and the construction of  Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) was expected to be complete by 2012.

But all the expected timelines were blurred and nothing could be achieved according to paper planning. As Admiral Gorshkov delayed, INS Virat was made to serve and is still under Navy’s flag till now, perhaps will remain there as long as till 2017. Construction of IAC, which had no connections with Gorshkov’s delays, was moving with snail pace and it was launched recently after jumping several deadlines.

In this backdrop, it was critical for Indian Navy to acquire the third foreign carrier and hence the visit of the delegation took place. After visit in 1995, navy took three more years to inspect the Kiev class cruiser again in 1998 and painted a very decimal picture about the Ship.

The inspectors were of the view that the “little or no maintenance efforts had been undertaken on the ship. To confirm or discount the doubts, third delegation went to Russia, which said that the Ship condition had further deteriorated and the process of deterioration was likely to accelerate.  

The delegation indicated that the state of machinery and systems had worsened to such an extent that the refit could hardly be called ‘repair’.

After four years of protracted discussions, and files moving with the familiar pace


Competent Financial Authority  (CFA), the Finance Ministry finally gave the approval the purchase in January 2004 and the Cabinet Committee on Security put its seal on the acquisition proposal in March 2004, which was the last mega deal of the NDA regime. According the agreement, refurbished Ship was to be delivered in August 2008. What happened to that schedule is a different story altogether. 

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