Thursday, 12 March 2009

Carriers Fully Loaded - Vikradmaditya

2.2 Modified Kiev, Vikramaditya India (Russia)
Figure 15. Vikramaditya

Figure 16. Vikramaditya when it was the Admiral Gorshkov

The vessel was laid down in 1978 at Nikolayev South in Ukraine; it took four years to build the vessel, it was physically launched in 1982. However, it was not commissioned until 1987; due in primary to software bugs in the new command and control system. The vessel was originally called Baku, but was renamed after Admiral Gorshkov when the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the city of Baku as part of the newly independent Azerbaijan. Between 1991 and 1994 the Admiral Gorshkov was the principle aircraft carrier of the Russian navy. However, it was in 1994, following a boiler room explosion, that the Admiral Gorshkov was docked for a year of repairs. Although she returned to service in 1995, the vessel had lost its importance and she was finally withdrawn from service in 1996 and offered for sale in 1997.

On the 20th of January 2004, after almost 8 years of bilateral and trilateral(with china) negotiations, Russia and India signed a deal for the sale of the ship, the then- Admiral Gorshkov. In the end the deal from the perspective of both sides was sweet, for India the ship was free; for Russia, India agreed to pay US$800million for the necessary upgrades and refitting of the vessel. Russia also achieved the added bonus of at the very minimum an additional $1bn for the aircraft and weapons systems. This part of the deal included the purchase of 12 single seat MiG-29K 'Fulcrum-D' and 4 dual-seat MiG-29KUB aircraft, 6 Kamov Ka-27 "Helix" anti-submarine helicopters, as well as torpedo tubes, missile systems, and artillery units. The Russians also agreed to open their facilities and procedures for training pilots and technical staff; the delivery of simulators, spare parts, as well as the establishment of maintenance on Indian Navy facilities were also part of the contract.

Outline of Design

As the Admiral Gorshkov, the vessel was, as is shown by Figure 16, a cruiser with a runway tacked on to port side. Like the Admiral Kuznetsov, the Admiral Gorshkov was heavily armed. Its fore deck is dominated by the 6 twin SS-N-12 Sandbox SSM launchers. It was a heavily cluttered design unlike the successor of the Kievs the Admiral Kuznetsov. There is a reason for this in the Kievs the cruiser was dominant over the aircraft carrying, but in the Admiral Kuznetsov this was reversed; a difference not unlike to that from Admiral Gorshkov to Vikramaditya. With its new name, the vessel has become a carrier, no longer and Aircraft Carrying Cruiser.

Figure 18. Vikramaditya Plan

As can be seen from Figure 18, the upgrade plans for the conversion of Admiral Gorshkov to Vikramaditya have involved stripping all the weaponry from the ship's foredeck to make way for the revised Short Take-Off But Assisted Recovery (STOBAR) configuration. This will allow the vessel to operate far more capable aircraft than it did in its previous form; however it will still be restricted by its small hangar space, Figure 18. In fact according to that plan there is space in the hanger for just 14 fixed wing aircraft of the type selected (the Mig-29k), and 4 rotary wing aircraft (Ka-27 family). What is most interesting though about this early plan is that it shows just one take off position; whereas the more recent models (Figures 22 & 23) clearly show two; as the vessel is not yet finished this is hypothetical conjecture, but if it has the space for two such positions it would both simplify and accelerate air group operations.

Figure 19. Vikramaditya Deck Operations/Hangar Plan

Weapon Systems/Sensors

Figure 20. Admiral Gorshkov

As the Admiral Gorshkov the vessel had almost as impressive a range of firepower as the Admiral Kuznetsov, the mounting of 6 twin SS-N-12 Sandbox SSM launchers, 12 missiles, on its foredeck being a key part of this. It also had 24 of 8-cell SA-N-9 vertical SAM launchers, for a total of 192 missiles, and even 2 100mm deck guns; although whether it would have got near enough to its opposition to use them remains to be seen. Like the Admiral Kuznetsov it the Admiral Gorshkov had 8×AK-630 30 mm CIWS. Again like the Admiral Kuznetsov, and in the spirit of a battle group operating far from home and safety it was given an impressive ASW outfit; including 10 × 533 mm torpedo tubes (again like the deck guns – would it have ever been able to make use of these?), and 2 RBU-6000 anti-submarine rocket launchers. All this weaponry allowed the vessel to be incredibly self-dependent for an aircraft carrier; it also gave it a strength which most of the other navies that operate aircraft carriers seem to have been almost adverse to doing so with their own.

The big hitter of this weapons outfit, and the only system I will discuss from this list, as we are considering the Vikramaditya not the Admiral Gorshkov, is the SS-N-12 Sandbox SSM. These as can be seen from any picture of the Admiral Gorshkov (Figures 15, 19 & 20) was dominated by these huge silos mounted in pairs. This missile was both the numerical and the technological predecessor of the SS-N-19 Shipwreck, discussed previously. The SS-N-12 was physically bigger than the SS-N-19, however it was still dangerous with a range of 550km[1], and speed of about Mach 2.5[2]. It was then, and still is a weapon system which it is not easy to discount, especially when just one hit of its 950kg semi-armour-piercing high explosive warhead has been seen to break the back of both old warships and freighters in exercises.

Figure 21. Admiral Gorshkov to Vikramaditya

As is shown in Figure 20, one of the key features of the transformation of Admiral Ghoshkov to Vikramaditya is the elimination of its weapon systems in favour of a larger and far less restricted operational deck area. However, the Indian navy does not go in for sitting ducks or white elephants when it comes to its large ships; thus like the Admiral Kuznetsov the Vikramaditya is to receive 8 of the very capable, and still one of a kind (in that it combines both missile and gun under one)CADS-N-1 Kashtan CIWS[3].

Aircraft Carried

The Indian Navy looked at equipping the carrier with the E-2C, but decided not to, as the fitting of catapults, and their supporting apparatus would have been very expensive, and most importantly the lifts have not been built with such aircraft in mind; and the question of whether they would fit must most certainly have had an impact on the decision. The air group it is expected to be a either a mixture of British and Russian origin aircraft; the actual types are Sea Harrier, Mig-29k, and helicopters of the ubiquitous Ka-27/31 Helix family (both ASW and AEW).


Figure 22. Mig-29K taking off from Admiral Kuznetsov

This is the naval variant of the very successful Mig-29 the “K” does not stand for a new type by just for deck based; by this it means that the airframe has been modified with equipment such as folding wings, arrestor gear, and reinforced landing gear. The aircraft was originally intended for service upon the Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carriers; this did not happen however even though MiG received series production approval from Russian Ministry of Defence; however this was stopped in 1992 due to shift in military doctrine and state financial difficulty. MiG Corporation restarted the program seven years later on a semi-private basis making vital improvement to the previous design (specifically in the area of landing gear – which on original would have had a very high attrition rate). On 20 January 2004, Indian Navy signed a contract of 12 single-seat MiG-29K and four two-seat MiG-29KUB(training aircraft) with delivery to be between 2007 and 2009.

Further modification was made for Indian Navy requirements; now this is standard for all Mig-29 aircraft currently under production. These modifications included the installation of the Zhuk-ME radar, the newly developed RD-33MK engine, an increased combat payload up to 5,500 kg, 13 hard points (this number is inclusive of those provided by the multi-lock bomb carriers); most importantly additional fuel tanks have been inserted into the airframe, they are situated in the dorsal spine fairing and wing LERXs, these have increased total fuel capacity by 50% when compared with that of the first variant of the MiG-29. All these new capabilities are brought to bear through the use of the updated 4-channel digital fly-by-wire flight control system; Russia’s evolutional equivalent to that installed in the Eurofighter Typhoon. The Mig-29k has also been given the advantage of special coatings radar reflecting ‘paint’ which has reduced its radar presence to between 20% and 25% of that of the basic MiG-29. The MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB aircraft are equipped with an in-flight refuelling system and also have the facility (when fitted with extra tanks) to be used as in-flight tankers, if they are furnished with the UPAZ refuelling pod.

The cockpit has had pilot visibility/awareness improved through the installation a full-sized two-seater style canopy on both MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB aircraft. The Cockpit has also had its displays improved so that they now consist of wide Head Up Display (HUD) and three (seven on MiG-29KUB) colour LCD Multi-Function Displays (MFDs), in the Indian models only the French Sigma-95 satellite GPS module has been added, however all have been provided with the Topsight E helmet-mounted targeting system. The Mig-29K is fully compatible with the complete range of weapons carried by Russian Air Force’s MiG-29M and MiG-29SMT aircraft. However due to all these improvements it has received a new NATO reporting code, the Fulcrum-D; this in many ways is its ultimate accolade – it is such an improvement its ‘opponents’ have to give it a new name.

Sea Harrier

The Royal Air Force's Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR1s had entered service in April 1969. In 1975 the Royal Navy ordered 34 Sea Harrier FRS.1s (later FRS1), the first of which entered service in 1978. In total 57 FRS1s were delivered between 1978 and 1988.

The Sea Harrier was largely based on the Harrier GR3, but was modified to have a raised cockpit with a "bubble" canopy (to give better visibility for the air defence role) and an extended forward fuselage to accommodate the Ferranti (now BAE Systems) Blue Fox radar. Parts were changed to use corrosion resistant alloys or coatings were added to protect against the marine environment.

Figure 23. 2 Indian Navy Sea Harriers, and an F/A-18 from the USS Kitty Hawk on exercise

The cockpit in the Sea Harrier includes a conventional centre stick arrangement and left-hand throttle. In addition to normal flight controls, the Harrier has a lever for controlling the direction of the four vectorable nozzles. The nozzles point rearward with the lever in the forward position for horizontal flight. With the lever back, the nozzles point downward for vertical takeoff or landing. The Indian Navy is in the process of upgrading up to fifteen Sea Harriers in collaboration with Israel by installing the Elta EL/M-2032 radar and the Rafael 'Derby' medium range air to air missile. This will enable the Sea Harrier to remain in Indian service until beyond 2012, and also see limited service off the new carriers it will acquire by that time frame.

The Indian Navy is currently interested in acquiring up to eight of the Royal Navy's retired Sea Harrier FA2s in order to maintain their operational Sea Harrier fleet. Which consists of 13 Pegasus 104-powered Sea Harrier FRS51s. If the deal goes through it will have to involve ongoing support from BAE Systems and Rolls Royce. The sale will not involve the Sea Harrier FA2's Blue Vixen radar, the RWR and the AMRAAM capability. Certain US software will be deleted prior to shipment. With the loss of another Sea Harrier on 24 December 2007 (attempting a vertical landing, pilot ejected to safety), the total number of Sea Harriers with the Indian Navy has fallen to 13. India purchased 30 Sea Harriers in 1983, using 25 of these for operational flying and the remaining to train pilots. Since then seven pilots have died in 17 crashes involving the Sea Harrier and more than half of the fleet is now gone, lost mostly to routine sorties.

History of Service

Figure 24. Vikramaditya (top)

Figure 25. Vikramaditya (front)

Not yet in service as Vikramaditya so no history to give.

[1] Pike, John. SS-N-12 Specifications. 22 April 2006. (accessed February 22, 2009).
[2] some sources say Mach 2.6, others Mach 2.4, and some say Mach 2.5, the latter was chosen as it is the middle so whatever it actually is, it is approximately right
[3] Please read the Admiral Kuznetsov report, specifically pages37-38, for more information on the Kashtan CIWS

for some reason not all the photos will load, will try and sort this out over the coming days




you might want to look at the video attached to the dream corvette post



  1. Video on INS Vikramaditya

    <embed width="400" height="325" src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"></embed>

  2. Interesting how heavy the non-aircraft armament is.

    The Vikramaditya will eventually operate with the two Vikrants (one under construction) to form India's carrier triumvirate.


  3. Whoops I just released the obvious - that the heavy non-aircraft armament relates to Gorshkov not the conversion to Vikramaditya.



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