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Soviet aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov

Admiral Gorshkov was a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier of the Russian Navy, originally named Baku. Sometimes Admiral Gorshkov is considered a separate class due to its improvements including a phased array radar, extensive electronic warfare installations, and an enlarged command and control suite. In 2004, she was sold to India for conversion into a STOBAR carrier now named INS Vikramaditya.


The ship was laid down in 1978 at Nikolayev South (Shipyard No.444) in Ukraine, launched in 1982, and commissioned in December 1987. The delay in commissioning was largely caused by software bugs in the new command and control system.

The ship was renamed Admiral Gorshkov after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, as the city of Baku was now in independent Azerbaijan. Sergey Gorshkov was responsible for the expansion of the Soviet Navy during the Cold War. In 1994, following a boiler room explosion, the ship was docked for a year of repairs. Although she returned to service in 1995, she was finally withdrawn in 1996 and offered for sale.

On January 20, 2004, Russia agreed to sell the Admiral Gorshkov to India, though payment details are still being worked out. The original price was $947 million. The upgrade would be undertaken by Russia’s major shipyard, Sevmash Enterprise. As of 2009, Russia is upgrading the ship by stripping all the weaponry from the ship’s foredeck to make way for a Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery configuration, with a ski-jump on the bow. The carrier will be named INS Vikramaditya in Indian Navy service. Russia would also change the boilers to diesel fuel.

On December 17, 2009, it was reported that India and Russia ended the stalemate over the Admiral Gorshkov price deal by agreeing on a price of USD 2.3-billion

On September 17, 2012, the Indian Navy revealed the Admiral Gorshkov (still to be named INS Vikramaditya) had failed its sea trials. The refitted aircraft carrier could not reach “full speed” due to malfunctioning boilers. “Some of the 44,500-ton warship’s eight boilers malfunctioned during the strenuous full-steam trials”. The Indian Navy had planned on commissioning the Vikramaditya on December 4, 2012, “Navy Day”. Because of the failed sea trials, the warship must undergo repairs and modifications that will delay its commissioning for about 11 months, until October 2013.


Baku DN-SC-90-05958r
Baku in 1989.

Baku DN-SN-89-06990c
Baku in 1989.

The fourth of the Project 1143 aircraft carrying cruisers, Baku had many differences from the rest of the class, trialing technologies to be used on the Admiral Kuznetsov. The most obvious is the massive planar array above the bridge. This was the antenna for the Mars-Passat (“Sky Watch”) 3D air search radar, comparable to the US SCANFAR radar if not the AN/SPY-1 used by the Aegis combat system. Like SCANFAR, Sky Watch proved troublesome and was probably never operational.

The biggest change to the weapon systems was the replacement of the SA-N-3 ‘Goblet’ and SA-N-4 ‘Gecko’ SAM launchers with four SA-N-9 ‘Gauntlet’ VLS launchers. This allowed room for another two SS-N-12 ‘Sandbox’ launchers. The two AA guns of the Kievs were replaced with 100 mm guns, and the SUW-N-1 launcher was removed.

The air wing was the same as the other Kievs, consisting of a squadron of twelve Yak-38 ‘Forger’ V/STOL aircraft (until they were retired in 1992), twelve Ka-27 ‘Helix-A’ ASW/SAR helicopters and two Ka-31 ‘Helix’ AEW helicopters. Flight operations were assisted by the distinctive new Cake Stand TACAN.

Baku was used for trials of the Yak-141 Freestyle supersonic VTOL fighter.


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