Indian navy chief in Russia to push warship deliveries

Indian navy chief in Russia to push warship deliveries

India's top naval officer was in Russia on Friday to push the Kremlin for faster delivery of a 4.5-billion-dollar arms package, the Interfax news agency reported.

Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma was in Moscow on the second of a four-day inspection tour of military plants that would also take him to Petersburg, Severodvinsk and Kaliningrad, Russian Army officers said, DPA reported.

The Indian delegation was checking on the status of an aircraft carrier, attack submarine and naval frigates that India has paid Russia to manufacture but whose delivery has been delayed for years.

The highest-profile item on India's shopping list is the Soviet-era aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, which Moscow was contracted to modernize and turn over to India by 2008.

Disagreements over the actual cost of the overhaul have pushed the ship's price to 2.3 billion dollars including jets and helicopters, and moved its delivery date to 2012, according to Interfax.

An Akula-II-class attack submarine, the Nerpla - to be leased by Russia to India - was also scheduled to be turned over in 2008. However, during sea trials that year an underwater fire extinguisher accident killed 20 sailors and specialists aboard the boat.

The Indian Navy's 10-year lease of the vessel will start at the beginning of 2012, at a price of 650 million dollars, said Roman Trotsenko, a Russian naval construction agency official.

The first of three anti-submarine frigates built at Petersburg's Yantar military shipyard, which Verma will also visit, began sea trials in June.

All three ships in the 1.6-billion-dollar contract should have been be turned over to India by 2011, Interfax reported, adding that Russia is likely to be charged 40 million dollars for missing the deadline.

A Russian Mig 29KUB, the fighter jet designed for India's aircraft carrier, crashed during a June 23 training flight, killing both its pilots.

Verma, however, said the aircraft was sound and the accident would not affect India's arms orders with Russia, in comments to Russian media.

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