MOSCOW Russia will put off delivery of a renovated $2.3 billion aircraft carrier to India by five months to fix defects in its construction, a state shipbuilder said, blaming some of the problems on NATO-supplied equipment.
Sources close to Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport told Reuters earlier this week that problems with the boilers on the Vikramaditya were discovered during sea trials and would delay delivery of the vessel by six months to a year.
The head of a top shipbuilder confirmed on Friday that boilers had malfunctioned.
"Besides that, there are a series of mechanisms which malfunctioned including those delivered by countries of NATO," Interfax reported Andrei Dyachkov, president of United Shipbuilding Corporation, which owns another company that is doing the renovation, as saying. He did not go into details.
Interfax quoted him as saying repairs would push back the delivery by five months until May from this December.
Originally built as the Admiral Gorshkov in the Soviet Union, the vessel to be reconditioned for India is seen as the cornerstone of defence ties between Russia, the world's second largest arms exporter, and its biggest customer.
But several delays and cost overruns for the vessel have raised the ire of both sides.
Russian newspaper Kommersant said this week the boilers malfunctioned when the ship accelerated to maximum speed.
"According to our calculations, the estimated duration of repair work ranges from five to seven months," said Dyachkov.
The ship is due to arrive back for repairs in the coming days. Earlier it was scheduled to be delivered to the Indian Navy in time for the country's December 4 naval holiday.
New Delhi bought at least $1.6 billion worth of Russian arms last year, or 21 percent of all of Russia's defence exports.
(Reporting by Thomas Grove; Editing by Mark Heinrich)