Indian Navy Chief to inspect MiG29K fighter assembly near Moscow

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Moscow, Mar 13 (UNI) Visiting Indian Navy Chief Admiral Suresh Mehta, who arrived here today on a week-long visit to discuss military cooperation with Russia, will inspect tomorrow the assembly of MiG-29K Fulcrum-D fighters at a plant near the city.

''After talks with Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky in Moscow, Admiral Suresh Mehta will visit tomorrow a MiG assembly plant, where MiG-29K naval fighters are being built,'' a Russian military official told RIA Novosti news agency.

He said the agenda of Adm Mehta's current visit also includes discussion of the controversial contract on modernisation of the Admiral Gorshkov heavy aircraft carrier.

The Indian Navy signed a contract in January, 2004 on the delivery of 12 single-seat MiG-29K and four two-seat MiG-29KUB from 2007 to 2009, to be later deployed on the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, being retrofitted for the Indian Navy at Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk city in northern Russia.

After continuing disputes for months over price escalation demanded by Russia, the two sides reportedly agreed in February to raise refit costs for the aircraft carrier.

Indian Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, who inspected the Admiral Gorshkov in February, said there would be ''a substantial increase'' in the ''reworked estimate'' for modernisation work on the carrier.

Mr Singh did not mention any figures, but according to media reports, New Delhi is willing to pay additional 600-800 million dollars for the 44,570-tonne aircraft carrier.

After the likely new deal, the carrier is expected to be completed by mid-2010. After that, it will undergo 18 months of extensive sea trials by the Russian Navy to ensure all systems are working properly.

After upgradation, the Admiral Gorshkov to be renamed INS Vikramditya, is expected to be seaworthy for 30 years.

The contract to deliver the aircraft carrier to India, which Russian state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport signed with the Indian Navy, covers the modernisation of the ship and equipping it with modern weaponry, including MiG-29K Fulcrum aircraft and Ka-27 Helix-A and Ka-31 Helix-B anti-submarine helicopters.

UNI XC SKB RS1910

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