MiG-29 K for Admiral Gorshkov

MiG-29 K for Admiral Gorshkov

Delivery of the 45,000-tonne carrier INS VIkramaditya delayed by six years

MiG-29 K for Admiral Gorshkov

The first batch of four fighters will be inducted here on Friday. Two more are awaited soon from Russia. These six are part of the 16 fighters originally contracted by the Navy in a $ 1.5-billion deal in 2004 as a part of the Admiral Gorshkov agreement.

While the delivery of the 45,000-tonne carrier—rechristened “INS VIkramaditya”—has been delayed by almost six years, the fighters were delivered on time. This has led to a peculiar situation in which the navy has new generation sea-borne fighter planes but not the platform from where they will fly.

By the time the aircraft carrier arrive, the fighters will be at least five years old. Naval aviators, however, do not see it as a major impediment to the fighter’s performance onboard. But that’s not the only peculiarity. There’s a second oddity in the MiG-29K story.

As a part of the design and development of a naval version for the light combat aircraft, the Aeronautical Development Agency, Bangalore, is building a 1,200-metre shore-based testing facility, parallel to the main runway of Dabolim airport.

The SBTF was intended for testing the carrier compatibility of LCA Navy. The facility has a ski jump at one end and an arrester gear on the other so that both aspects of indigenous sea-borne fighters can be tested on ground.

Original contract

When it became clear that Russia was not in a position to deliver Admiral Gorshkov by 2008 as per the original contract, the Navy decided to modify the SBTF so that both LCA Navy and MiG-29K can use this facility. But the arrester gear at SBTF was meant for the 11.4-tonne LCA Navy. Under no circumstances it can handle the 23.5-tonne MiG-29K.

As a result, the arrester engine is now being modified in Russia so that it can arrest both lightweight and heavyweight fighters, said Capt Surinder Ahuja, commanding officer of the naval airbase “INS Hansa” here. Nobody is hazarding a guess when the modified arrester will arrive, even though the official completion time for SBTF is 2012.

This means for at least another two years, the navy pilots cannot flight-test the two most vital aspects of a sea-borne fighter—a ski-board jump and landing on the deck using an arrester wire.

“Almost 60 per cent of SBTF is complete. To lower the cost, we put two arrester wires though “Vikramaditya” will have three. The final design of the ski jump and the modified arrester engine is awaited from Russia,” Ahuja said.

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