The lethal Russian-made MiG-29K maritime fighter planes,which will be based on Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier,were formally inducted by Defence Minister A K Antony on Friday,further strengthening the Indian Navy’s air arm.
“With induction of MiG-29Ks,coupled with the future inductions of aircraft carriers,our Navy’s capability will see a quantum jump,” he said during a ceremony here.
The MiG-29Ks are planned to be deployed on under- construction Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov which is likely to be inducted in the Navy by 2012 and an air defence ship being built at Kochi defence shipyard by 2014.
Highlighting the importance of the warplane induction,Antony said,”Such an induction to our inventory was in fact overdue as the operational roles of the Navy have increased manifold.”
The MiG-29Ks have been acquired by the Navy after a wait of over two decades. Sea Harriers,the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) British-made maritime planes,were the last to be bought by the Navy in the 80s.
The Minister said,”The Navy will commence operationswith the machines to the prescribed limits,train the crew,establish doctrines and be fully ready for operations,as soon as the aircraft carrier (Gorshkov) is ready.” The Russian aircraft carrier has been nicknamed INS Vikramaditya by the Navy.
India had placed orders for the 16 MiG-29Ks and Admiral Gorshkov as part of a USD 1.5 billion deal in 2004 and the two were supposed to arrive in 2008 together but delays forced change in the delivery schedule.
After the induction of the first batch of four aircraft,which landed in India on December 4 last year,the remaining 12 are expected to be delivered by the end of 2010.
Antony said after the Navy expressed satisfaction on the performance of the aircraft,the Government has decided to place an order for another 29 such planes from Russia.
After the induction today,the maritime warplanes will be operated for around two years from the under-development shore-based testing facility (SBTF) and air strips at Naval air base INS Hansa here till the actual delivery of Gorshkov.
India had sent 10 pilots to Russia for training on the aircraft in 2009. Pilots were also sent to the US for deck landing training and for operations training on board a French aircraft carrier.
Now the pilots will train under the Intensive Flying and Testing Unit (IFTU) and a syllabus has been evolved for all future pilots,who would fly the aircraft.
The IAF fliers will have to go to Russia again four months prior to the induction of the Gorshkov for fully qualifying on making arrested landings and take-off from actual aircraft carriers.