Early in July the Indian Navy announced that it was finally running acceptance trials for its Russian-built carrier, the Vikramaditya . The ship, which began life as the Soviet carrier Admiral Gorshkov , was rebuilt by the north Russian yard Sevmash for the Indians. The deal must have seemed good at the time. The Russians were desperate. In return for an order for carrier-capable aircraft, they offered the carrier gratis. The Indians were to pay only for the cost of modernization. As a Soviet vessel, the Gorshkov operated Yak-38 short-takeoff/vertical-landing (STOVL) fighter-bombers plus various other weapons, most notably a battery of long-range antiship missiles. Reconstruction, including removal of the missiles, will allow the ship to operate higher-performance MiG-29K aircraft, which will take off using a ski-jump forward and land, using arresting gear, on an angled deck. All of that had to be built in. The combination of ski-jump and arresting gear is used on board the somewhat larger (55,000 rather than 45,000 tons) Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetzov and her Chinese half-sister Liaoning (the former Russian Varyag ).
None of these ships has U.S.-style steam catapults. Conventional (non-STOVL) aircraft can operate off their ski-jumps as the ship provides the necessary wind over her deck, but they suffer a penalty in payload compared to aircraft that rely on catapults. Moreover, it takes a high ratio of thrust-to-weight to launch off a ski-jump, as the airplane benefits heavily from the force its engines exert as it is forced up by the deck.