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    With Russia hiking Gorshkov price, India goes for indigenous carrier

    New Delhi (IANS): As Russia continues escalating the price for the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov much to the chagrin of the defence establishment here, India is all set for the keel laying of its first indigenous carrier for which Rs.3,260 crore (Rs.32.60 billion/$654 million) has initially been allocated.

    The keel will be laid at the Cochin Shipyard on Feb 28.

    "The present sanction for the construction of the aircraft carrier under Project-71 (as it is technically named) is Rs.3,260 crore (Rs.32.60 billion)," a defence source said.

    However, this is likely to rise considerably, given the history of India's indigenous defence projects. For instance, Rs.150 million were initially allocated for the Arjun main battle tank that has been almost four decades in the making and which has so far cost Rs.3.5 billion.

    The carrier, with a 40,000-tonne displacement, will be ready to sail by 2011. It is not only the first military warship to be built at Cochin Shipyard but also the largest military vessel to be constructed at any Indian yard.

    "The aircraft carrier will be a big boost for the shipbuilding capability of the country. We will become the fourth nation besides the US, Russia and France to have the capability of building a carrier," an Indian Navy official told IANS.

    Britain also the capability to build carriers but these are now in shambles.

    "Work on the construction of the aircraft carrier started in 2006. It required nearly 300 people working on the ship designing for 2-3 years. It will be a spin-off for the industry because steel, lagging material, generators and other things are indigenous," the official added.

    The building of a ship can be divided into seven phases: design, construction planning, work prior to keel laying, ship erection, launching, final outfitting, and sea trials.

    What makes the carrier special is that it is built with steel produced by state-owned SAIL (Steel Authority of India ltd.) The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) are also involved in the project.

    India, which plans to operate three aircraft carriers by 2015, is also purchasing the Admiral Gorshkov, which was built in 1987. However, the deal has sparked a lot of controversy as Russia now is demanding a staggering $2.9 billion, which is almost twice as much as was originally agreed on.

    "India needs the Gorshkov to replace (its sole aircraft carrier) INS Viraat, which is currently undergoing refurbishment. We were expecting a price hike of $300-400 million during the refit in Russia of the Gorshkov but we were stunned when Russia proposed a cost escalation of $1.2 billion in 2007," another senior navy official said.

    That pushed up the cost from Rs.1.5 billion to $2.7 billion and the Russians are now demanding $2.9 billion.


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