A pair of Russian-origin naval MiG-29K fighters will fly overhead US President Barack Obama on the Republic Day, making their maiden appearance on the annual display of India’s military might.
The two fighters – the most potent weapons on board aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya – are to leave their home base in Goa shortly to arrive in the North for the practice drill. They will be accompanied by a US-origin P8I maritime surveillance aircraft. The threesome would fly in a “Vic” formation with P8I in the front.
This would be the first appearance of naval fighters on the Rajpath in a growing reflection of India’s maritime strength, sources said.
Almost three decades back, a young naval aviator Arun Prakash – who rose to become the Navy chief – flew with Sea Harrier jets over the Rajpath as a part of the Beating
the Retreat ceremony. That was the last time when naval combat aviation came to the capital.
New Delhi purchased 45 naval fighters from Russia to fly from the decks of INS Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorshkov) and indigenous carrier Vikrant, which is under construction. The first MiG-29K squadron was commissioned in Goa in August, 2013 and currently there are six fully trained pilots who can land on the deck even in pitch dark night.
Carrying enough punch to undertake simultaneous air dominance and power projection missions, the MiG-29K can take Indian naval aviation from a defensive stature to one of dominance. The aircraft has a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound (about 2,000 km per hour) and can climb to an altitude of over 65,000 feet.
The Navy is now set to start a second base of these fighters at the Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam.
The maritime combat platform, however, would not be the only Russian origin military hardware that Obama would witness. There will also be tanks, armoured vehicles and Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft. Two of the Indian Air Force’s latest acquisitions – C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III – from the USA too would fly on the Rajpath.