Russians Discuss Future Carrier Plans, Eyeing India
A MiG-29KUB factory development prototype made a successful landing on the deck of the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier on July 28, according to Russian Aircraft (“MiG”). The Indian carrier is undergoing sea trials in the Barents Sea after modernization and refit from its previous life as a Soviet heavy cruiser. Test pilots Mikhail Belyaev and Nikolai Diorditsa were at the controls for the first landing, and a few days later they performed the first takeoff from the carrier and then made a second successful deck landing.
The successful MiG landing and other progress in the open-sea trials of the Vikramaditya have encouraged the Russians to approach the Indian MoD with a proposal to build an all-new aircraft carrier in Russia for the Indian navy. The vessel would be built at the same Sevmash shipyard at Severodvinsk that reworked the Vikramaditya. The new ship, however, would have nuclear or gas-turbine propulsion. The Vikramaditya’s water boilers run on diesel.
The Nevskoye design bureau in St. Petersburg has been working on a next-generation carrier for the Russian navy since 2005. It has already produced several design proposals and submitted them to the Russian navy for assessment. It is believed that the new carrier on offer to India will be based on one of these proposals. Construction would take between seven and 10 years, according to Andrei Diachkov, president of Russia’s United Shipbuilding (OSK). He further stated that OSK is ready to assist India in the indigenous construction of aircraft carriers, through a joint venture being established between Russian and Indian shipbuilders.
However, a high-ranking source in the Russian navy said that that service wants a ship “a lot more advanced than the one on offer” from Nevskoye. The Russian navy’s “dream” carrier would be armed with advanced self-defense systems able to intercept high-flying targets, including low-orbiting satellites. It should also have “underwater capability,” the source said, hinting at the ability of the carrier to carry advanced manned or unmanned submersible vessels. The navy expects the Nevskoye design house to complete the draft design of an advanced ship in 2014, then issue production documentation in time for Sevmash to begin construction in 2020.
In late July, newly appointed Russian navy commander Admiral Victor Chirkov confirmed that “money [to prepare] for the construction of such ships has been allocated.” However, he also said then that the current Russian Armament Program 2011-2020 does not include the construction of such ships and that a decision on the program has not been made yet. By 2020, he added, the MoD will be spending its money on construction of smaller-displacement ships and modernization of older nuclear-powered cruisers.