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September 22, 2012

Faulty boilers caused Indian aircraft carrier's trial snags

Sea trials of an Indian Navy aircraft carrier refitted at a Russian shipyard were unsuccessful due to design failures in the vessel's boilers, a former Russian official has said.

* Russia was giving the aircraft carrier itself for free but India was paying for the refitting and repairs and for $500 million in Russia fighter aircraft
* The project was already delayed by 4 years and now will be delayed 9-12 months
* Russian boilers were damaged when they tried to go at full speed in trials
* Overheating is blamed on not using the asbestos to insulate but on inadequate fire brick
* The Collapse of the Soviet Union and kleptocracy did not maintain key strategic capabilities like being able to make boiler grade steel pipe
* This project looks bad for Russia and India
* China had previously bought a Russian Aircraft carrier but has done the retrofit themselves and is using the Russian aircraft carrier for training purposes and was used to learn how to build and design their domestic aircraft carriers

The ship's handover to the Indian Navy was put back from December 2012 to at least October 2013 after propulsion failures occurred when the INS Vikramaditya - formerly the Russian Navy's Admiral Gorshkov - underwent sea trials in the White Sea last month.

Oleg Shulyakovsky, former director of Baltisky Shipyard, told Russia's Vedomosti daily Tuesday that three of the carrier's eight boilers failed, but the ship still managed to stay underway and reached 23 knots, below its design speed of 29 knots.

He said boiler failures were a legacy of the original vessel's design, with propulsion snags being a persistent feature of the four Project 1143 carriers built in the Soviet Union in the 1970s.

The carrier's boilers lasted just 20 percent of the design life stated by their makers, he said.

The replacement boilers installed as part of the vessel's $2.3 billion refit were guaranteed for just 10 months, which expired before the ship took to sea.



Engineers are focusing on the boilers' heat insulation as the core of the problem.
Repairs could take from four months to a year depending on the damage to the insulation, he said.

Shulyakovsky said the worst case would be damage to the pipes carrying steam from the boilers.

The pipes are made from a special steel which is no longer made in Russia.

The steel used in Vikramaditya's pipes was made in Ukraine.

A defence industry official, who prepared the Vikramaditya for sea trials, told Kommersant newspaper the reason for the boilers' failure was that India refused to use asbestos to protect the boilers from heat, fearing that the material was dangerous for the crew.

Instead, it used firebrick, which had poorer insulating properties.

The purchase and refit of the Vikramaditya has experienced a long-running catalogue of failures and setbacks.

India and Russia signed the $976 million deal in 2004 for the purchase of the carrier, with an original deadline for the refit's completion 2008.

Delivery was delayed twice, pushing up the cost of refurbishing the carrier to $2.3 billion.

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