India’s Vikramaditya aircraft carrier prepares for sea trials

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Sea trials of India's latest aircraft carrier will start "this summer", with the work to involve the launch and recovery of fixed-wing aircraft from INS Vikramaditya.

Although the Indian navy says it has received all 16 RSK MiG-29K/KUBs - 12 single-seat fighters and four two-seat trainers - from a 2004 order, the trials will be carried out using Russian aircraft flown by Russian pilots.

The aircraft used in the trials are likely to be a purpose-built MiG-29K and a MiG-35D twin-seat demonstrator. An Indian navy team will also be present during the tests.

 

© RSK MiG

The Vikramaditya, formerly the Soviet-era carrier Admiral Gorshkov, is located in the Sevmash dockyard in Russia's northern city of Severodvinsk, where it has undergone major refurbishment to prepare it for the Indian navy. The service says the vessel could be transferred to India by the end of 2012.

No decision has yet been made as to the eventual retirement of India's only currently operational aircraft carrier, the INS Viraat. The navy operates British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS51 fighters from the ship, which was originally launched as the UK Royal Navy's HMS Hermes in 1953. The Viraat underwent a major refit between August 2008 and November 2009, and the navy had previously said it planned for the carrier to serve until 2020.

India is also developing two domestic aircraft carriers. Although details of these are vague, the first will be equipped with a ski ramp for the launching of aircraft. The second, however, could be equipped with either steam catapults or an electromagnetic aircraft launch system, which could enable the navy to acquire and operate the Northrop Grumman E-2D airborne early warning and control system aircraft.