India’s newest aircraft carrier, the Vikramaditya, began sea trials off Severodvinsk, Russia, in June, with testing expected to continue into the fall. The 44,000-ton Kiev-class carrier, formerly known as the Admiral Gorshkov, initially entered Soviet naval service in December 1987. Negotiations to sell the Admiral Gorshkov began in 1994, and in 1998 India agreed to acquire the ship for free and modernize her with Russian equipment. The vessel was officially transferred to India in 2004, and conversion has been ongoing at the Sevmash Enterprise shipyards in Severodvinsk. Hull modifications include the addition of a 14.3-degree “ski jump” at the bow to enhance the performance of short-takeoff aircraft. Relaunched in 2008, the ship is expected to carry an air group of 20 MiG-29K fighters and 12 helicopters once she becomes fully operational during the next few years. India currently has one other aircraft carrier in service, the 28,000-ton Viraat (ex–HMS Hermes) and at least one newly built 40,000-ton Vikrant-class carrier is also planned for service beginning around 2015.
By Eric Wertheim