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Indian Navy chief to inspect MiG-29K assembly in Russia

The Indian Navy's chief of staff will inspect on Friday the assembly of MiG-29K Fulcrum-D fighters at a plant near Moscow, a Russian military source said.
MOSCOW, March 13 (RIA Novosti) - The Indian Navy's chief of staff will inspect on Friday the assembly of MiG-29K Fulcrum-D fighters at a plant near Moscow, a Russian military source said.

A group of Indian military officials headed by Admiral Sureesh Mehta arrived in Moscow earlier on Thursday for a week-long visit to discuss military cooperation with Russia.

"After talks with Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky in Moscow, Admiral Sureesh Mehta will visit on Friday a MiG assembly plant, where MiG-29K naval fighters are being built," the source said.

On January 20, 2004, the Indian Navy signed a contract on the delivery of 12 single-seat MiG-29K and 4 two-seat MiG-29KUB in the period from 2007 to 2009, to be later deployed on the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, being refitted in Russia for the Indian Navy.

The Russian source said the agenda of the current visit also includes discussion of the controversial contract on modernization of the aircraft carrier.

After long-running delays and disputes, Russia and India agreed in February to raise refit costs for the aircraft carrier, berthed at the Sevmash shipyard in north Russia for the last 12 years.

Vijay Singh, the Indian defense secretary, who inspected the Admiral Gorshkov in late February, said there would be "a substantial increase" in the "reworked estimate" for modernization work on the ship.

The defense secretary did not mention any figures, but according to The Times of India, New Delhi is willing to pay another $600-800 million for the 44,570-ton aircraft carrier.

"It should be completed by mid-2010. After that, it will undergo 18 months of extensive sea trials by the Russian Navy to ensure all systems are working properly," he said.

The carrier, renamed the Vikramaditya, is to replace India's INS Viraat carrier, which although still operational is 50 years old.

India contracted the $1.5 billion Admiral Gorshkov for its navy in 2004. Moscow has since demanded an additional $1.2 billion, which New Delhi replied was "exorbitant."

The defense secretary said Vice-Admiral Dilip Deshpande, the controller of warship production and acquisition, would visit Russia to work out "the essentiality and reasonableness of costs" by the end of March.

After it is has been refitted, the Gorshkov is expected to be seaworthy for 30 years.

The contract to deliver the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier to India, which state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport signed with the Indian Navy, covers the modernization of the ship and equipping it with modern weaponry, including MiG-29K Fulcrum aircraft and Ka-27 Helix-A and Ka-31 Helix-B anti-submarine helicopters.

Russia's MiG also signed on March 11 a contract with the Indian Defense Ministry to upgrade around 70 MiG-29 fighters, in service with the Indian Air Force since the 1980s.

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