Wait over: INS Vikramaditya to be added to Indian navy on 16 November
This was a time, 1994, soon after the break-up of the Soviet Union, when the new Russian nation was in dire need of money. Indian navy too was going through a ‘lean patch’ – with a lot of its ships getting decommissioned – and the service in trouble.
Sometime in that year Admiral Feliks Nikolayevitch Gromov, was visiting New Delhi. At a meeting during the visit, then Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral VS Shekhawat spoke to the visiting Russian official. He had an interpreter, a young Captain of the navy, Ganesh Mahadevan.
Shekhawat asked Gromov whether they had any old naval ships to sell. Gromov was perplexed and said, ‘We don’t sell old ships.’ Though, later they did sale some to Indonesia.
But the next day, at a public occasion in the evening, the chief of the Russian navy took the CNS aside, with Mahadevan interpreting, ‘We have an old aircraft carrier. If you want to take that’.
The reason for Gromov saying that has a story too: the aircraft carrier was named Admiral Gorshkov, after the name of the famous admiral – a legend - of the Russian navy who for the first time took the navy of the landlocked country to the snow capped North Sea, leading up to the Atlantic, the oceanic opening to the southern and central Europe.
This Gorshkov’s daughter had written to the new Russian navy that while they are scrapping so many ships, Admiral Gorshkov that was classified as an aircraft-carrying cruiser, should not be scrapped.
Gromov was urged to keep that request by his government. And there was a happenstance. The interpreter for that conversation was the Captain of the Indian navy, Ganesh Mahadevan, a young engineer.
On Saturday, 16 November, defence minister, AK Antony will be commissioning the aircraft carrier, now named INS Vikramaditya, to the Indian navy at Sevmash shipyard in Russia. The wait was long, hugely time overrun. The cost, steeper.
However, Mahadevan who later became the principal director (weapons and equipment) and eventually a vice admiral and controller (warship production) negotiated hard with the Russians in his last capacity when the latter were bent upon raising the cost of the Vikramaditya and pushing the prices higher.
Vikramaditya was initially priced at $ 1.1 billion at the beginning, including the aircrafts that were to go on it, now costs $ 2.33 billion with the MiG 29Ks.
Ofcourse BADM Mahadevan is not invited to the party on 16 November.