India and Russia have maintained a close relationship in recent years, even if the two nations could never actually be described as “allies.” As New Delhi has sought to expand its navy to confront potential aggression from China in the Indian Ocean, it needs to greatly modernize its shipbuilding capabilities and now Moscow has already stepped in to help.
The Russian-based Sevmash – the largest singular shipbuilding enterprise in Russia and the nation’s only nuclear submarine builder – recently completed the modernization of an Indian shipyard. Sevmash, which was founded in 1939, is a Russian joint-stock enterprise under the vertically integrated and state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation.
The modernization of the shipyard will allow India to perform repair and maintenance work on the Indian Navy’s sole aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya – a former Kiev-class aircraft carrier that India purchased from Russia in 2013. Originally constructed as the Baku, the carrier was commissioned in 1987 and served with the Soviet Union’s and Russian Navies before being decommissioned in 1996 due to high operating costs.
“All the necessary work has been completed to equip the shipyards of the foreign customer with repair shops for weapons systems to ensure the repair and maintenance of weapons systems for the ship of Project 11430,” the Russian-based company said in its 2020 annual report.
Sevmash also noted that it provided technical assistance in the operation of equipment and systems for the carrier, while it also delivered spare parts, tools and accessories to India.
The warship, which displaces 45,000 tons fully loaded and has a length of 932 feet, can carry a maximum of thirty-six aircraft. Its airwing consists of Russian-built Mikoyan MiG-29K multirole jet fighters and ten Kamov Ka-31 AEW&C or Kam Ka-28 ASW helicopters. The carrier officially entered service with the Indian Navy on June 14, 2014.
Despite the efforts to keep the carrier well-maintained, INS Vikramaditya has been plagued by problems in the past seven years.
A fire broke out in the boiler room of the aging carrier in April 2019, which resulted in the death of a naval officer from smoke inhalation, while several others were injured after fighting the blaze. Last month, another fire also broke out, but it was quickly put out and the INS reported that no one was hurt.
“The duty staff observed smoke emanating from the part of the warship having accommodation for sailors. The ship’s duty personnel acted promptly to fight the fire. All personnel on board have been accounted for and no major damage has been reported,” a Navy spokesperson said in a statement following May’s fire.
In 2016, two other people were killed when a toxic gas leak occurred during maintenance work in the carrier’s sewage treatment plant compartment.