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Navy chief defends Gorshkov deal

Josy Joseph in New Delhi |  

A training vessel of the Indian Navy would circumnavigate the globe in 2003-2004 in a 15-month voyage that is likely to see the participation of foreign naval cadets also, Navy chief Admiral Madhavendra Singh said on Monday.

Addressing a press conference in New Delhi to mark the Navy Week, Admiral Singh dismissed reports about Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov being junk.

He also outlined an ambitious plan to expand maritime capabilities with a long-term perspective, but refused to discuss Indian Navy's nuclear capabilities and projections.

"We need it. There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that we need it," Admiral Singh said, pointing out that his predecessors and successors support his claim on Admiral Gorshkov.

Several experts believe that the entire deal on Admiral Gorshkov would be a mistake because the ship is old and rusting.

Admiral Singh said the negotiations are on and "both sides need to be happy" before the deal is finalised. According to original plans, the Admiral Gorshkov deal was to be signed during the state visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin beginning on Tuesday. But the two sides couldn't agree on the cost of refit and other equipment.

The navy chief said at the Kochi Shipyard, the construction of the Air Defence Ship, the indigenous aircraft carrier, would begin by 2003. The government has approved the construction of the ship with a displacement of about 37,000 tonnes, he said.

He announced that INS Tarangini, a 500-tonne three-masted sail training vessel, is planning to undertake an ambitious circumnavigation of the globe in 2003-2004. The vessel, carrying cadets and probably some foreign cadets too, would visit 34 ports as it circles the globe, beginning its journey westwards and returning to India from east.

He said the induction of the three Talwar-class ships from Russia has been delayed because the navy was not satisfied with the working of "one system". He said all the three ships are expected to be inducted before next yearend.

The navy is inducting a Prabal class corvette on December 18, the navy chief said. And early next year, the Navy would be inducting Russian made Kamov-31 helicopters for airborne early warning, and unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel.

The navy has submitted a Vision 2025 report to the Ministry of Defence projecting its long-term requirements, Admiral Singh said. "Part of this plan has been culled out and forwarded to the Ministry of Defence for a 15-year ship building plan," the navy chief said.

Under a Naval Aviation Master Plan, he said, the navy is planning to induct advanced carrier borne fighters, multi-role helicopters and maritime reconnaissance aircraft in the next 15 years.


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