Russia handed over to India its aircraft carrier renamed INS Vikramaditya on Saturday after a much-delayed refit and cost escalations that led to disagreements between Moscow and New Delhi.
The Indian Navy finally received its modified carrier – formerly known in Russian as Admiral Gorshkov − at the Sevmash shipyard in the northern town of Severodvinsk.
The ship was first scheduled to be delivered in 2008, but the deadline was repeatedly postponed over the period.
The official ceremony was attended Saturday by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and Indian Defense Minister AK Antony, who arrived in Russia on Friday for a four-day visit.
The commissioning papers were signed by deputy director of Russia’s arms exporter Rosoboronexport Igor Sevastyanov and the ship’s Indian captain Suraj Berry.
The Vikramaditya will be escorted to India by a group of warships to secure its safe sail to its base in base in the Arabian Sea through a classified route because it does not have any air defense systems on board, according to Indian website Zee News.
The warship is expected to reach India by February 2014, Russian officials said earlier.
Renamed after a legendary Indian king, the warship was originally as a Project 1143.4 or modified Kiev class aircraft carrier commissioned by the Soviet Navy in 1987. It was decommissioned in 1996 after cuts to the Russian Navy fleet.
The refurbishments of the vessel lurched from one crisis to another since the $947 million deal was signed with Russia in 2004 for its purchase and refit.
The delays pushed up the cost of its refurbishing to $2.3 billion, sparking acrimony between Russia and India over the contract.