According to top government officials, impressed with its maritime capabilities, the outgoing prime minister, Manmohan Singh, had expressed his desire to spend a day on board the 44,500-tonne aircraft carrier procured from Russia. Sing along with the defence minister AK Antony was scheduled to dedicate the warship to the nation in the last week of March in a mega ceremony. But, the declaration of general elections and subsequent implementation of model code of conduct had put brakes on the scheduled programme of the UPA-II government. The defence ministry led by AK Antony first wanted to take clearance from the Election Commission to organise the event. But later on decided to leave it to the next government.
The $2.3 billion INS Vikramaditya was handed over to Indian Navy on November 16, 2013 at Sevmash, a Russian port. The warship arrived in Karwar on January 7 after 40 days of voyage. Since then, the warship has been stationed in Karwar naval base in Karnataka, but without adequate air defence guns for any protection against aerial attacks. However, the naval sources claim that the aircraft carrier always moves in a carrier battle groups, escorted by warships with all air defence weaponry. Refit of air defence guns on the aircraft carrier will take place soon.
"Yes, the formal induction of INS Vikramaditya has been delayed. But, the aircraft carrier is now capable of its full deployment. Fighter aircraft such as MiG 29 have embarked and being flown by Indian naval pilots. So far, we have trained 10 MiG 29 naval pilots, who have been trained to operate from INS Vikramaditya,"said an officer.
INS Vikramaditya has an overall length of about 284 metres and a maximum beam of about 60 metres, stretching as much as three football fields put together. Standing about 20-storey tall from keel to the highest point, the sheer sight of this 44,500-tonne mega structure of steel is awe inspiring. The ship has a total of 22 decks. With over 1,600 personnel on board, Vikramaditya is literally a 'Floating City'.
The ship has the ability to carry over 30 aircraft comprising an assortment of MiG 29K/Sea Harrier, Kamov 31, Kamov 28, Sea King, ALH-Dhruv and Chetak helicopters.
INS Vikramaditya is a Kiev class aircraft carrier which was commissioned by Russian Navy in 1987 under the name Baku. It was later renamed as Admiral Gorshkov and last sailed in 1995 in Russia, before being offered to India.