Cost escalation for Gorshkov refit transparent: Russia

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - 19:42

Moscow: As the Indian audit watchdog CAG
questioned the prudence of buying a second-hand aircraft
carrier from Russia at an exorbitant cost of USD 1.82 billion,
Moscow has said the cost escalation for refit of the warship
`Admiral Gorshkov` was transparent and being monitored by the
Indian Navy.

"At several occasions our leadership has given public
statements on the issue. Each and every step in the process
of the refit of the aircraft carrier is monitored by Indian
Navy`s technical team and they have never raised objections,"
Vyacheslav Davidenko, the official spokesman for the
Rosoboronexport (ROE) state corporation, said here.

The ROE is the Russian government`s nodal agency for
executing foreign defence contracts.

Davidenko refused to comment on the CAG report for 2008,
released on July 24, which wondered why the Defence Ministry
was buying the warship second-hand which now comes at "half
its life-span" and about "60 per cent more expensive" than a
new aircraft carrier.

He, however, said that "this is India`s internal matter."

Anastasia Nikitinskaya, official spokesperson of the
Severodvinsk-based Sevmash shipyard, has claimed the cost went
up as Indian Navy had been constantly changing specifications,
which were not included in the initial estimate for upgrading
the 44.5-thousand-tonne Kiev class carrier commissioned in
1987 by the Soviet Navy and decommissioned after the collapse
of the USSR.

"Initially, there were plans to change some conduits and
damaged cables. The original estimate had provided for the
overhaul of onboard equipment and some constructional changes.

"However, in the course of upgradation the Indian
Navy asked for total recableing and replacement of all the
originally-installed equipment with new, resulting in the
cost escalation," Nikitinskaya said over phone.

She said although she was not competent to discuss
financial aspects, the Sevmash Shipyard has not received any
payment since 2007 and the refit work is being financed from
its own resources.

"The hull of the vessel with modified ski-jump deck is
moored in the wet dock and the heavy equipment is being lifted
for assembly," she said, underscoring that the Vikramaditya
aircraft carrier will be delivered as per revised schedule.

According to the local sources, Indian Navy`s "colonial
traditions" had given an additional headache to the shipyard,
which while finalising the refit estimate had never thought
that it would have to be re-carved to place new corridors to
keep ordinary sailors away from the officer`s quarters.

"We have an egalitarian society and our officers and men
use the same corridors and gangways. Another surprise for the
shipyard was the Indian demand for a bar for the officers. In
Russia, in general, we have `dry law` on the naval vessels.

"To find furniture for the bar was a big problem as no
Russian factory makes it for naval vessels," said a Russian
defence correspondent, who accompanied President Dmitry
Medvedev on an inspection tour to the shipyard.

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First Published: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - 19:42

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