Vikramaditya, we wish you good luck on your journey to India! Source: Alexander Yemelyanenkov
Under a gray November sky and piercing wind, I am approaching the fitting quay where the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya is stationed. It's a unique experience for me as a journalist to get on board the ship that has become one of the symbols of Indo-Russian defence cooperation.
Close to us is the Sevmash factory and huge workshops, where the famous Akula class submarines were produced in the past. One such unit is currently being used for producing the Bulava missiles. We see the gate of the basin through which the Vikramaditya passed on its way to the open seas. The width of the gate is just enough for the aircraft carrier to pass, so this is where its first test began.
A group of marines are lined along the quay rehearsing for the ceremony of transferring the ship to India.
Here it is: its huge contour is sharply cut against the skyline. Even anchored in the docks, it looks regal and exudes silent power with its 45,000 tonne displacement capacity, and more than 2000 rooms. In motion it must look like a floating island.
I slowly walk up the ladder and get inside this ship-story, ship-symbol of Indo-Russian friendship, which builds on patience, perseverance and a great amount work.
Roman Khviyuzov, commissioning mechanic of Vikramaditya, shows us around the aircraft carrier.
It was loud and hectic inside the ship. A chorus of Russian and Indian voices shouting commands, making last- minute checks, polishing and finalizing the preparatory works! I climbed one set of stairs and then another, pass long corridors careful not to bump into several crew members running along the corridor rehearsing evacuation procedure or not to touch a fresh coat of paint.
One of the most vivid impressions was the flight control room. The place has a magical feel about it. A friendly senior Indian naval officer Gowtham who took us around the place said there are normally just two officers who give pilots permission to land on the flight deck. It is mindboggling just to imagine that there are just two persons carrying such a load of responsibility on their shoulders.
After being shown the screens displaying the temperature and humidity and being explained where the colour signals authorizing the landing are coming from, I leave in awe the flight control room with its intriguing equipment.
The flight deck was so spacious that it gave it me a sense of being in a desert although there were a good number of people scurrying along the deck preparing it for the grand event. I could easily picture the airplanes taking off and landing on the three runways.
The machinery section is bustling with work but the staff working there stopped to talk to us. What a thrill it was to see with my own eyes the perfectly repaired boilers that were damaged during the full steam tests! “Now they are in full working order,” I was assured by Yuri Razdobudko, brigadier of constructors of one of the machines. I was even allowed to hold in my hands a fire-resistant brick (they are used for thermal protection of the boilers)!
On leaving the ship, I thought it exuded a warm feeling despite its intimidating size and impressive looks, thanks to the friendliness and feeling of camaraderie among the crew.
Vikramaditya, we wish you good luck on your journey to India!
Photos by Alexander Yemelyaninkov.
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