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Gorshkov missile shopping

New Delhi, Dec. 7: The Indian Navy is evaluating three air defence (missile) systems for the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, talks for which are on track despite differences with the Russians, defence ministry officials insist.

The navy is evaluating a Russian (Kashtan), a French (Aster) and an Israeli (Barak) missile system. These are intended to reduce the chances of the ship being hit by aircraft on suicide missions. The Russians are pressing for the Kashtan system. The missile system is part of the air defence umbrella, the largest component of which would be ship-based aircraft that would be capable of giving a 200-mile cover.

The Russians were understood to have questioned the choice of third-party missile launchers and their compatibility with the Gorshkov’s own systems. Defence ministry sources say the issue of a missile defence system would not hold up an agreement on the Gorshkov. They said efforts were being made to iron out differences ahead of the Russian defence minister’s visit to Delhi likely by the end of the month.

Navy chief Admiral Madhvendra Singh had claimed earlier this week that the price of the Gorshkov had been fixed at less than Rs 3,000 crore but within hours the Russian defence ministry said the negotiations were stuck on the issue of an air defence system for the ship.

Admiral Singh also said India had negotiated at least one squadron of MiG 29K aircraft to be based on the ship. The choice of aircraft to be based on the Gorshkov is crucial. The Gorshkov was being fitted with a 14 degree ski jump (the other option was a catapult) that would require aircraft to have greater thrusting power during take off from a short runway. The aircraft have to be equipped with mid-air refuelling capability and external weapons systems.

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