The Indian Naval Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma and a delegation of high-ranking officials are currently visiting Russia to check the status of various Indian naval projects that are being carried out there. With the intention of pushing Russia for faster deliveries of frigates and aircraft, the Russian visit consists of the inspection tour of shipyards and military plants in various parts of Russia including Petersburg, Severodvinsk and Kaliningrad.
During the Russian tour, Admiral Verma will be visiting Russian Navy's Headquarters and meetining the commanders of Pacific fleet based in Vladivostok, North Sea fleet and White Sea base. As per the agenda, the Indian Naval Chief and his delegation will visit Sevmash shipyard to see the progress made in INS Vikramaditya project after its basin trials. INS Vikramaditya, which is the retrofitted Admiral Gorshkov, will be commissioned into Indian Navy by the end of 2012. The Indian Naval Chief will also head to Vladivostok where the MiG-29K project is based. The delegation will also visit the Yantar shipyard in Kaliningrad where the follow-up of Talwar class frigate project is going on.
The Indian Naval Chief’s visit to Russia is aimed at taking stock of the situation of crucial Indian Navy projects in Russia. Indian Naval Chief will be enquiring the status of aircraft carrier, attack submarine and naval frigates that India has paid Russia to manufacture but whose delivery has been delayed for years.
Indo-Russian military ties have been going through some rough weather lately due to various time and cost overruns and other mishaps pertaining to various naval projects in Russia. There has been a row over the actual cost of the overhaul of the Admiral Gorshkov (INS Vikramaditya) and the current cost has hiked to $ 2.3 billion including jets and helicopters. Even its delivery date has been postponed to 2012. The 40,000 tonne and 283-metre long INS Vikramaditya will boost the capability of Indian Navy significantly as it is currently working with its sole aircraft carrier INS Viraat.
The other issue to be sorted is that of the Akula-II-class attack submarine, the Nerpa, which is to be leased by Russia to India. The submarine was scheduled to be turned over in 2008. However, during sea trials that year an underwater fire extinguisher accident killed 20 sailors and specialists aboard the boat. As of now, the Indian Navy's 10-year lease of the vessel will start only by 2012 at a price of $ 650 million due to delays.
Admiral Verma will also visit the Yantar Military Shipyard in Petersburg where the first of three anti-submarine frigates is being built. The frigate began sea trials in June. All three ships in the $ 1.6-billion contract should have been turned over to India by 2011. According to sources, Russia may be charged $ 40 million for missing the deadline.
Another important aspect of the visit will be the assessment of the MiG-29 KUB fighters since India and Russia signed a $ 1.2 billion deal in 2010 for the Indian Navy to receive an additional 29 MiG-29Ks. A recent crash of the MiG-29 K in Russia has cast a shadow on the credibility of the aircraft although Russia has clarified that the crash happened due to a human error.