New Delhi, Apr 9 (UNI) The Government today said the technical assessment of the refit work needed on aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov was nearing completion and the final price proposal would soon be sent to the Cabinet for a fresh approval.
Defence Secretary Vijay Singh also expressed confidence that the key defence deal with Russia would be on track.
However, India and Russia were yet to break the deadlock over fixing the new price for Admiral Gorshkov, to be rechristened as INS Vikramaditya.
''The technical assessment of the refit work on the Russian warship is still going on and nearing completion. The final price proposal would be sent to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for fresh approval,'' Mr Singh told journalists here.
He said the two countries were locked in intense negotiations over the price details.
A high-level team, headed by the Defence Secretary, had recently visited Russia to break the deadlock over the delivery of the aircraft carrier besides verifying and assessing the ''actual'' cost on the refit work needed on the 45,000-tonne warship.
In a setback to the Indian Navy's plan to acquire Admiral Gorshkov after phasing out the INS Virat, Russia demanded additional 1.2 billion US dollars from New Delhi, citing cable-laying work and sea trials as the reasons for the huge price escalation.
Russia did not fulfill the promise of delivering the aircraft carrier on the scheduled time. The warship was to be delivered by August 15 this year as per a 1.5 billion US dollar contract signed between India and Russia in 2004.
Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta had earlier criticised Russia for demanding a huge increase in the quoted price of the warship.
India has now agreed to a new price revision for the carrier at Russia's insistence. The new conditions by Russia meant a delay of up to four years.
The Defence Secretary said it was difficult yet to put a firm figure on the price escalation.
He said the repair and re-equip work on the carrier was in progress in a Russian dockyard.
Defence sources said a large amount of money would have to be incurred on sea trials of the displacement carrier and the Russians may not have expected such a huge price escalation at the time of signing the deal with India.
The ship's conversion into an aircraft carrier was a very difficult and complicated operation. Many designing and technological decisions made during the implementation of this order have no precedent in shipbuilding.
After identifying defects in the warship, drafting a technical project and making detailed engineering blueprints, the Russian side had to make substantial changes in the ship's design and conversion technology.
The Russians wanted the aircraft carrier to have high combat qualities and a long service life. This required a lot of additional work, which was not envisaged by the signed contract.
This is why the schedule of work had to be changed, as well as the cost of repairs and conversion.
UNI AG MSJ HT1857