India is gearing up to take delivery of the 45,000-tonne Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier with the Navy training a batch of sailors in Russia as the warship's first crew ahead of its induction in January 2013.
The 152 sailors and officers commenced their training in St Petersburg in Russia three weeks ago to prepare for the takeover of the Kiev-class aircraft carrier in December 2012.
The warship, bought by India in 2004, is undergoing a repair and refit programme at the Sevmash shipyard in northwest Russia.
"The first group of 152 sailors and officers commenced training in Russia to prepare to take over INS Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorshkov) aircraft carrier. The team largely comprises technical crew for the warship," naval spokesperson Commander PVS Satish said here Thursday.
Ahead of going to Russia for the training, the crew went through a three-month course in Russian language skills, he added.
The warship will ultimately have 1,400 crew members. All of them will be trained in Russia in batches.
India had paid USD 974 million for the aircraft carrier in 2004 and another USD 526 million for 16 MiG-29K fighter aircraft to be operated from the warship in a 'short take-off but arrested recovery' configuration.
In 2007, the Sevmash shipyard first demanded a hike in payments for the refit programme and had at one stage cited USD 2.9-billion as cost of the works, which included additional retrofitting, wiring, weapons suite, and communication systems that India sought.
After nearly three years of protracted negotiations, India finally agreed to pay USD 2.34 billion for the second-hand aircraft carrier in February 2010.
While Russia has delivered the fighter jets to India, the warship itself is expected to be inducted only by late 2012 or early 2013. The Navy is expected to place an order for 29 more MiG-29Ks.
The aircraft carrier deal had come in for criticism from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in 2009 for the high costs involved in the purchase of a second-hand warship while spanking new one could be bought at almost the same cost.
But the Navy has argued that Admiral Gorshkov at the present price was the best India could get, as there were not many aircraft carrier manufacturers in the world and no other country, except Russia, was willing to sell the warship to India.