INS Vikramaditya. Source: Flickr/FrigateRN
Reports of an Indian naval official spying for Russia and that of other officers connected with the purchase of the INS Vikramaditya are “wild” and “unjustified” said sources close to the Russian and Indian navies.
On Sunday, India’s leading daily The Times of India reported that the country’s navy is looking to whether a commander level officer sent classified information to his Russian wife over a social networking site. The paper, citing unnamed sources claimed that a board of inquiry was constituted to look into these allegations by an officer in India’s Western Naval Command in Mumbai.
The report says that the officer under question lived in Russia in 2011 along with 2 other commander level officers were on deputation concerning the INS Vikramaditya.
A source close to the Russian Navy called the accusation “wild” and “bordering on the bizarre.” The source who has worked closely with the Indian Navy said that officers of India’s proud navy were men of highest calibre and intelligence. “Can you imagine a senior Indian Navy officer passing on confidential and sensitive information to his wife through Facebook or Vkontakte,” the source said.
The Russian source, who spoke to RIR on the condition of anonymity, said the Indian Navy under pressure from the Defence Ministry was looking at finding scapegoats for the price escalation and delays in the refitting of the aircraft carrier, formerly known as the Admiral Gorshkov.
A retired Indian Navy officer, who was directly involved in the original negotiations for the Vikramaditya said the honey trap claims were “unjustified.” The Indian Government approved the dismissal of another senior naval officer, Commodore Sukhjinder Singh, who had been involved in the acquisition of the aircraft carrier, over alleged involvement in a honey trap. “The pictures of the commodore with a Russian woman, which were used as ‘evidence,’ were doctored,” the Indian source said.
The Indian and Russian navies were unavailable for official comment on the Times report.
India and Russia signed the original $947 million dollar deal in 2005 for the purchase of the carrier, but delivery has already been delayed twice, pushing up the cost of refurbishing the ship to $2.3 billion.
The Vikramaditya was originally built as the Soviet Project 1143.4 class aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. The Project 1143.4 carriers and a class of destroyers with the same engines suffered a history of boiler failures during their service lives.
The ship was laid down in 1978 at the Nikolayev South shipyard in Ukraine, launched in 1982, and commissioned with the Soviet Navy in 1987. It was renamed after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. In 1994, the Gorshkov sat in dock for a year for repairs after a boiler room explosion. In 1995, it briefly returned to service but was finally withdrawn and put up for sale in 1996.
The ship has a displacement of 45,000 tonnes, and an endurance of 13,500 nautical miles (25,000 km) at a cruising speed of 18 knots. It will have an air wing consisting of Russian-made MiG-29K jet fighter planes and Kamov Ka-31 early warning radar helicopters.
Some of the MiG-29K fighters have already been delivered to India.
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