Without a doubt, navies are among the most expensive arms a nation may deploy. Our own ongoing going experience being germane – Russia is re-discovering the cost of admiralty and it isn’t always in rubles:

The project to modernize an aircraft carrier for the Indian Navy in Severodvinsk Sevmash has resulted in the bankruptcy of one of Russia’s largest design institutes, the Technology Center of Shipbuilding and Ship Repair (TSTSS), writes today, 14 December, the newspaper Vedomosti . . .(the) 51st Central Design and Technological Institute of Repair” (51th CKTI repair) filed a lawsuit on Dec. 10, demanding to declare OAO Technology Center of Shipbuilding and Ship Repair bankrupt, according to the website of the Arbitration Court of St. Petersburg and Leningrad region. Date of trial has not yet been set.” (www.navy.ru)

To recap — the INS Vikramaditya, was launched in 1982 as the Baku (renamed in 1991 as the Admiral Gorshkov) and entered service with the (then) Soviet Navy in 1987. After being laid-up for sometime after a 1994 boiler room explosion and following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia agreed to sell the Gorshkov to the Indian Navy at a price of $974M, including re-fit. As those of us who have had even passing acquaintance with overhauls of ships long neglected will attest to, initial estimates of effort

Baku (ca. Jan 1989)

and cost are rarely, if ever close to reality. That would be the case with the ex-Gorshkov. In short order, the amount required increased another $1.2B as extensive repairs were required in company with major upgrades (especially it seems, in the vessel’s wiring). This past March, on the occasion of a state visit by Russian Premier Vladimir Putin, with the carrier already late in delivery, India agreed to another $2.35B to further cover refurbishment and training of the Indian crew. And now the day of delivery continues to slide, with hopes that delivery to India will come near the end of 2012 and entry into service around 2014. The cost (estimated total of $4.5B) and schedule delays have ignited a round of stormy criticism in the press and among naval strategists who assert that the capability and capacity of the Vikramaditya, *when* delivered, will be anything but state of the art for the costs involved (for comparison’s purpose, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, under construction, displaces 65,600 tones and at present, is estimated to cost $6.2B and provides significantly greater capability and capacity).

But, as indicated above, the cost doesn’t end there. Mirroring a similar failed approach with the development of the Bulava SLBM, a design institute whose business lay in the design of documents for repairing ships, not actually building them, took on the project with fairly predictable results (note that this info comes by way of other St. Petersburg shipbuilders, so caveat emptor... – SJS). Aircraft carriers are incredibly complex with layer upon layer of inter-relationships, many of which aren’t self-evident. On the surface, that may seem to be a simple remove and replace with a touch-up of paint can readily turn into a back-breaking, months-long shipyard endurex — a black hole of funds and manpower. Hard enough for those experienced with the trials (and possessing of the diminishing pool of talent used in the construction) – Herculean for those not.

So, will the institute dissolve in bankruptcy? Likely as not – no. As a national resource, TSTSS will undoubtedly be the benefactor of apolitical solution. But there will remain the matter of settling debts, even as mounting costs limit, delay and cancel other projects.

Meanwhile, in another part of the world, another ex-Russian carrier quietly moves closer to the day it will get underway…

(Source: China Military Report)

(h/t: Russian Navy Blogger)

4 Comments

  1. You mean another floating casino/hotel…with new weapons and electronics, is soon to sail, right?

  2. Mongo

    I’ve seen the new paint job on Varyag, but is anything working yet? Sea Trials? Smoke from the stacks? Color me suspicious, but that’s one ship that has been awfully long in commissioning. I wouldn’t be surprised if her steam works and electrical wiring are wholly compromised by corrosion.

    I also shudder to think what happens if fire breaks out while underway, given a lack of corporate experience in Damage Control and Flying Squads.

    I guess we’ll see. Eh?

  3. Mongo:

    Short answer – Yes. Am seeing lots of very (very) interesting actions being carried out (can’t go into specifics) that are in direct and associated support of getting her up and running.

    w/r, SJS

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