Zee Media Bureau
Moscow: The much-awaited USD 2.3 billion aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya was inducted into the Indian Navy on Saturday.
The mammoth 44,500-tonne warship was commissioned into the Indian Navy at the Sevmash Shipyard in this northern Arctic port at a handing over ceremony attended by Defence Minister A K Antony and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and senior government and naval officials of the two countries.
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 commissioning papers were signed by deputy director of Russia`s arms exporter Rosoboronexport, Igor Sevastyanov and the ship`s captain Suraj Berry, Russia`s RIA Novosti news agency reported.
AK Antony arrived in Russia on Friday for the commissioning of the aircraft carrier at Russia`s nuclear submarine building centre Sevmash Shipyard.
Antony, accompanied by a high-level delegation including Defence Secretary R K Mathur and other officials, arrived on a four-day visit to the country. Naval Chief Admiral DK Joshi is already here.
Indian Naval Ship Vikramaditya is the country`s second aircraft carrier and the navy`s biggest warship.
INS Vikramaditya will not have any air defence systems on board to protect itself from aerial attacks while coming home from Russia and the Navy has sent warships to escort it safely.
The escort group of warships has been sent to Russia to bring the carrier to India through a classified route to bring it to its home base in the Arabian Sea, they said.
INS Vikramaditya`s commissioning is being described as "a game changer" in naval circles, and is expected to project India`s maritime power far beyond its shores.
The aircraft carrier is expected to reach India by early next year.
Vikramaditya is 284 meters in length, and with its beam of about 60 meters, it stretches to an area as large as three football fields. It has 22 decks and will have over 1,600 personnel on board.
The warship can carry over 30 aircraft, comprising an assortment of MiG 29K/Sea Harrier, Kamov 31, Kamov 28, Sea King, ALH-Dhruv and Chetak helicopters.
Long range air surveillance radars and advanced electronic warfare suite makes the ship capable of maintaining "a surveillance bubble" of over 500 km around the ship.
The ship is equipped with state-of-the-art launch and recovery systems and computer-aided Action Information Organisation (CAIO) system, which is the heart of the operational network that infuses life into the combat systems onboard the ship.
Negotiations over acquiring Admiral Gorshkov (which was re-named INS Vikramaditya) started in 1994. A memorandum of understanding was signed in December 1998, and the deal was made January 2004.
The warship, which was given for `free` to India in 2004, is ultimately going to cost more than Rs 12,000 crore to the nation.
The Navy has plans of bringing the warship to India and deploy it at the newly-developed Karwar naval base called Project Seabird.