The Gorshkov is the fourth and last ship built in the Soviet Kiev class of aircraft carriers. It was laid down at the Chernomorsky Shipbuilding Yard in Ukraine late in 1978, and was commissioned early in 1987. After spending two years in port following the Soviet Union's fall, it briefly returned to the sea in 1995, and was eventually purchased by India in January of 2004.

Under the Soviet flag, the Gorshkov carried a fleet of Yak-38 Forger V/STOL fighters, similar in function to the British Harrier. India's $1.6 billion purchase included a contract to refit the carrier to carry more advanced MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft. Converting the carrier will require a complete redesign of the deck to accommodate new launch catapults and arrestor cables. The conversion will take place at Russia's Severodvinsk plant.

In addition to its fighters, the Gorshkov also carries Ka-27 Helix helicopters, SA-N-9 and SS-N-12 missiles, and ten deck guns.

In the Indian fleet, the Gorshkov will replace the ex-British Viraat carrier, and will eventually be joined by one or more indigenously-manufactured aircraft carriers.

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