MOSCOW, August 26 (RIA Novosti) - The Indian Navy has suspended flights of its fleet of carrier-based Sea Harrier fighter jets following a fatal crash of one of the aircraft off Goa last week, local media reported.
"The Sea Harriers have been grounded following the crash that left a fighter pilot dead," the Times of India newspaper quoted Navy officials as saying.
The 10 Sea Harrier jump jets will remain on an airfield in the Goa province until the probe into the crash is completed, the officials said.
The decision to ground the Sea Harriers leaves India's only aircraft carrier, the Viraat, practically without air power.
The 50-year-old Viraat recently left dry dock at the Cochin Shipyard following an 18-month comprehensive refit, and is expected to become fully operational in two months.
The Indian Navy has been forced to extend the service life of the ageing Viraat for another five years due to prolonged delays in the construction of its first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) and Russia's failure to deliver the refitted Admiral Gorshkov on schedule in 2008.
According to the paper, the 40,000-ton IAC, which is being built at the Cochin Shipyard, "will be ready only by 2015 at the earliest," while the 44,570-ton Admiral Gorshkov, which is undergoing an overhaul at the Sevmash Shipyard in North Russia, may be delivered to India by 2013.
However, New Delhi and Moscow are still in a deadlock over the final price of the original $1.5 billion 2004 contract, which includes delivery of 16 MiG-29K Fulcrum carrier-based fighters. Russia has claimed it underestimated the scale and the cost of the Admiral Gorshkov's modernization, and has asked for an additional $1.2 billion, which New Delhi said was "exorbitant."
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