The long awaited aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya sailed off to serve in the Indian Navy on Tuesday, after completing a multi year upgrade at a United Shipbuilding Company shipyard.
The craft, originally built in 1987 for the Soviet Navy and christened the Admiral Gorshkov, had been undergoing modernization for the Indian Navy since 2004, with delivery dates repeatedly pushed back by a series of delays.
After leaving the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk, on the White Sea, the carrier will dock for several days in Murmansk for customs procedures and refueling, and then will be escorted by Indian Navy vessels to its new home base, Interfax reported.
A Russian crew of more than 180 servicemen will accompany the craft to India to instruct Indian sailors in the use of equipment and help with maintenance and any repairs.
The craft is scheduled to stop at 14 foreign seaports, before reaching India in early January to begin service.
Work on the ship under an initial $1.8 billion contract had been scheduled to be completed by 2008, but a series of delays and additional costs have driven the total sum of the contract to $2.3 billion.
The contract also included the purchase of MIG fighter jets and helicopters to be used on the ship by the Indian Navy.