India confirms Vikramaditya delivery by end-2013

Singapore
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Indian defence minister AK Antony has confirmed that the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya will be commissioned in the last quarter of 2013.

"The ship was put to sea for trials from June to September 2012," Antony said in a written reply to a question in parliament. "During the sea trials over 108 days, the main propulsion plant could not complete the 'full power trials' due to defects encountered on 'boiler furnace brickwork' at higher speeds."

India originally ordered the warship, formerly the Soviet carrier Admiral Gorshkov, in 2004. Cost disputes delayed work on the ship, but in March 2010, New Delhi and Moscow agreed on a final $2.3 billion price tag.

After the revised agreement, delivery was planned for 2012, but the propulsion problems encountered during the trials resulted in additional delays - the original delivery had been scheduled for 2008.

In 2004, New Delhi ordered 12 single-seat RAC MiG-29Ks and four twin-seat RAC MiG-29KUBs to operate from the ship. All of these aircraft have been delivered, with the Indian navy pilots operating the type from land bases. In 2010, New Delhi also decided to obtain an additional 29 MiG-29Ks.

Given China's increasing profile in the Indian Ocean, New Delhi's carrier capability has received considerable criticism in the Indian media this year. The country has just one carrier, the Viraat, a 50-year old ship that has just spent several months undergoing refits in the Cochin Shipyard.

Formerly the HMS Hermes, the Viraat operates BAE Sea Harriers and helicopters.