China has denied Russian claims that Chinese firebricks were to blame for boiler failures in the Russian-refitted Indian Navy aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, which suffered propulsion problems during sea trials in the Barents Sea last month, local daily Beitsin Chenbao reported, quoting Defense Minister Yan Yujun.
"We checked this, and found that Chinese enterprises which make such firebricks for naval propulsion systems have never exported such products to Russia," Yan said.
Earlier this month, Russian media reports, quoting Andrei Dyachkov, President of United Russian Shipbuilding corporation which refitted the carrier, claimed the ship's boilers had been damaged due to failures in the brick insulation separating them from the ship's structure. The shipyard used "sub-standard Chinese firebricks," Dyachkov said.
Another official involved in preparing the Vikramaditya for sea trials, claimed the reason for the boilers’ failure was India refused to use asbestos to protect the structure around the boilers from heat, fearing that the material was dangerous for the crew. He said the boilers’ designer had to use firebrick, which proved not sufficiently heatproof.
The Vikramaditya was to have been handed over to India on December 4 after the sea trials following a much-delayed refit that has gone massively over-budget. The deadline has now been postponed again until October 2013, and the cost of the new repairs to the boilers has not been revealed.
The boiler problem is the latest in a string of hold-ups in the refit of the ship, in a defense deal that has turned into a shipwreck of its own, going way over budget and being repeatedly delayed.
India and Russia signed a $947 million dollar deal in 2005 for the purchase of the carrier, formerly the Russian Navy's Admiral Gorshkov, but delivery has already been delayed twice, pushing up the cost of refurbishing the carrier to $2.3 billion.
Sevmash shipyard director Vladimir Pastukhov was fired in 2007 over his poor management of the project.
The Vikramaditya was originally built as the Soviet Project 1143.4 class aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. The Project 1143.4 carriers and a class of destroyers with the same engines suffered a history of boiler failures during their lives.
The ship was laid down in 1978 at the Nikolayev South shipyard in Ukraine, launched in 1982, and commissioned with the Soviet Navy in 1987.
It was renamed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1994, the Gorshkov sat in dock for a year for repairs after a boiler room explosion. In 1995, it briefly returned to service but was finally withdrawn and put up for sale in 1996.
The ship has a displacement of 45,000 tons, a maximum speed of 32 knots and an endurance of 13,500 nautical miles (25,000 km) at a cruising speed of 18 knots.