Severodvinsk (Russia) : After a delay of five years, the USD 2.3 billion INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier was on Saturday inducted into the Indian Navy, giving a strategic boost to its maritime warfare capabilities.
The mammoth 44,500-tonne warship – India’s largest naval vessel – was commissioned into the navy at Sevmash Shipyard in this northern Arctic port during a colourful ceremony attended by Defence Minister A K Antony, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and senior government and naval officials of the two countries.
Antony expressed his satisfaction at the delivery of the aircraft carrier after years of waiting during an interaction with the Indian media in the hangar under the deck, but conceded there was a time “when we thought that we will never get her”.
Speaking during the ceremony held on the flight deck of the refitted vessel, Antony said INS Vikramaditya would significantly enhance the Indian Navy’s reach and capability.
Noting that aircraft carriers have been part of the navy’s force structure since independence, he said: “The induction of Vikramaditya, with its integral MiG-29 K fighters and Kamov-31 helicopters, not only reinforces this central policy but also adds a new dimension to our navy’s operational capabilities.”
He added, “This project has been a unique one, challenging both the Russian and Indian sides alike…The successful culmination of (the) project truly symbolises the time-tested special and privileged strategic partnership between our two great nations.”
Braving chilling winds and snow on an overcast morning, scores of Russian and Indian dignitaries, including Indian Ambassador Ajai Malhotra, Defence Secretary R K Mathur, Indian Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi and his Russian counterpart Admiral Viktor Chirkov, attended the commissioning ceremony. The transfer deed of the aircraft carrier was signed by Igor Sevastyanov, the deputy director of Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport, and Captain Suraj Beri, the commanding officer of Vikramaditya.
The Russian flag on the vessel was lowered and the flag of the Indian Navy was raised in its place. In a traditional Indian ritual, a coconut was broken against the ship’s side.
The warship was first scheduled to be delivered in 2008 but the deadline was repeatedly postponed over the past five years.
The carrier will be escorted to India during a nearly two-month voyage by a group of warships to secure a safe sail to its new base at Karwar on the Arabian Sea coast.