New Delhi, Dec. 2: India has clinched a deal with Russia to buy the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov for Rs 3,000 crore, the chief of naval staff, Admiral Madhvendra Singh, said today.
The two countries have been negotiating the Gorshkov for close to two decades.
The Gorshkov would be packaged into a set of transactions that would involve the sale of at least a squadron of MiG29K fighter aircraft (to be based on the Gorshkov), four TU-22 nuclear-capable long range maritime “backfire bombers” and two Akula class nuclear submarines.
The navy chief would “neither confirm nor deny” the deal on the nuclear submarines.
“The Gorshkov would give us a weapons platform that is far, far more capable. It is a power-projection carrier and with the navy’s increasing responsibilities it can project power from the Gulf of Hormuz to the Straits of Malacca,” the navy chief claimed.
It is likely that the navy will order two more squadrons of the MiG29K apart from one to be based on the carrier. The Russians had agreed to freeze the price of the MiG29K for India for about four years.
Official figures are not being put on the cost of all the purchases woven into the deal for the Gorshkov which would be the largest vessel in the navy.
The navy chief claimed “at less than Rs 3,000 crore we have got a very good price”. Gorshkov is a 20-year-old floating airbase that was decommissioned by the Russian navy years ago. Singh said the hull of the ship was in “excellent shape and had been built to withstand air attacks”.
The ship would take four-and-a-half years to be delivered after the contract is signed, which should happen by March 2004.
“The Gorshkov with the MiG29K will put us in a totally different league. The Gorshkov is 15 to 20 years old but the life of a carrier is 40 years. It will be 60 to 70 per cent new when delivered to us with new weapons systems and there is nothing like the MiG29K today,” the navy chief said.
The Russian defence minister, Sergei Ivanov, is expected in Delhi later this month and a formal agreement is likely to be signed.
Critics — and there have been several former naval officers — have often alleged that India was negotiating “floating junk”. But the navy chief said such criticism was unwarranted.
The MiG29K are short-take-off and arrested recovery aircraft that will use a 14-degree ski jump on the Gorshkov to be airborne even when the carrier does its maximum speed of 30 knots.
Though the navy chief did not state it, it has been known the sale of the Gorshkov has been conditional on India buying other major military equipment. These have not been detailed but India and Russia have been negotiating backfire bombers, nuclear submarines, Kamov-28 and Kamov-31 anti-submarine and early warning helicopters and more warships.