Cost escalation for Gorshkov refit transparent: Russia



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.

Bureau Report