MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s main military shipyard is at least three years behind schedule on a $1.5 billion contract to modernise an aircraft carrier sold to India in 2004, Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday.
Under the contract, Sevmash shipyard in the Arctic port of Severomorsk was due by 2008 to upgrade and re-equip the ship built in 1987 to combine the power of a missile cruiser and capabilities of an aircraft carrier.
Indian media and officials have said the ship, with a squadron of Russian MIG-29 jet fighters on board, would considerably enhance the firepower of the Indian navy and bring nuclear rival China within range.
India is the only country in South Asia that has an aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, an issue of concern for some of its smaller neighbours. Pakistan and China, with whom India has fought wars, do not have this class of ship.
Interfax quoted an unnamed “high-ranking Sevmash source” as saying that the shipyard’s Director General Vladimir Pastukhov had been fired after failing to meet deadlines.
“The contract is delayed for three years,” the source said. “The realistic date ... is now 2011.”
India and China are the two biggest buyers of Russian arms, accounting for nearly 90 percent of Russia’s overall annual arms exports of around $5 billion.
Interfax quoted the Sevmash source as saying miscalculating the amount of work needed to renovate the ship had led to problems.
“After a more detailed examination was conducted, it became clear that the ship’s technological condition is awful and that money allocated for the renovation is not enough,” he said.