The Navy is awaiting its new fleet of fighter jets — the first batch of MiG-29 K combat aircraft — set to arrive in Goa in November this year.
The fighters, which will be the most modern combat aircraft in India’s inventory, completed several rounds of landings and take- offs from Russia’s sole aircraft- carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, this week. The crucial tests, Indian Navy officers say, have now cleared the path for their delivery to India.
The Navy will get four of the maritime MiG 29s — two single seater fighters and two double seater trainers — but the transfer will take several weeks as the aircraft will be knocked down and delivered by ship.
“The aircraft successfully completed the trials that lasted for over two days and made several landings on the aircraft carrier. The tests were witnessed by our team that was onboard the Russian carrier,” a senior Navy officer said.
The aircraft are now undergoing weapons trials and would shortly be dispatched to India. Once they arrive in “container format”, the aircraft will be reassembled by Russian technicians and would be inducted at the naval airbase in Goa. The aim is to induct the first four aircraft before the Navy Day, celebrated on December 4.
While the aircraft are now set to arrive shortly, they will be operated only from shore based facilities for the next three years as the Gorshkov aircraft carrier is still undergoing repair at the Sevmash shipyard. The revised scheduled for delivery of the aircraft is 2012 and the final price renegotiations are expected to be concluded shortly.
Navy officers say that the successful trials of the fighters onboard the Russian carrier will also pave the way for a follow on order for 29 more aircraft. “One of the key factors (holding up the follow on order) was the flight deck trials of the fighter,” the officer said.
While 16 MiG-29 K/KUB were ordered as part of a $ 1.5 billion deal signed in 2004, the Navy wants to procure 29 additional fighters over the next few years to raise additional fighter squadrons.
The contract is expected to be worth close to $ 2 billion. The Navy is planning to raise a total of three squadrons of MiG-29 K ship-borne fighters. A follow on order to take the total number of fighters to close to 50 is expected in the future.