After establishing itself as India’s leading carrier-based fighter aircraft, the MiG-29K is looking at an expanded role as the Navy seeks to increase the number of naval fighter squadrons.
"The Indian Navy plans to establish three naval aircraft squadrons that will fly MiG-29K and KUB. Two of the squadrons will be deployed to two aircraft carriers, while the third one will be used for training," General Director of RAC MiG Sergei Korotkov said.
The three squadrons of the MiG-29 are expected to be deployed at INS Hansa in Goa, INS Kadamba in Karwar and INS Degha in Vishakhapatnam.
The Navy established the first squadron, the 303 Squadron also called “Black Panthers” at the INS Hansa in Goa in May 2013 and since then has been steadily increasing carrier based operations abroad the INS Vikramaditya.
According to an Indian Navy release at the time of the MiG-29K squadron induction, “the aircraft have flown over 2500 hours and have concluded armament trials of the entire range of arsenal comprising air to surface missiles, air to air missiles, bombs, rockets and guns. After proving in trials the aircraft have also participated in important theatre level exercises with the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force”.
India has received some 23 MiG29K and MiG29KUB fighters from Russia so far. The latter are the two seater trainer versions. A further six are to be delivered this year followed by an equal number next year. In addition, a simulator provides realistic ground based training for all carrier operations.
Speaking to Defenseworld.net on the sidelines of the Aero India airshow in Bangalore last week, General Director of JSC RAC MiG, Sergei Korotkov said that the expanding carrier based operations of the Indian Navy will mean an increase in the requirements for the MiG-29K in future.
These aircraft need to be based on a shore facility and flown to the aircraft carrier and back. With the Indian Navy announcing a new air base on the east coast of India, a need may arise for additional fighters, he added.
“On our part, we are ready to meet the requirements of our Indian partners and can provide additional aircraft whenever required”, Korotkov said adding that the Russian Navy too had begun ordering the MiG-29K fighters which meant an expanding customer base for RAC MiG.
As a means of improving the operational flexibility of the MiG-29K and to increase the safety of the aircraft and pilots, the Indian Navy has reportedly asked Russia to prove single engine landing of the MiG-29K on the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier as a safety measure in case one of the two engines fails.
The Hindu newspaper reported last week that the Russian side will be carrying out the proving trials on its own carrier in Russia, Admiral Kuznetsov. Quoting an unnamed Indian official, the report said, “The aircraft is just too good and has a very powerful engine. To allay the fears of pilots, we have asked Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG to prove single-engine landing of MiG-29 K on board the Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. This will happen in a fortnight.”
More recently, the MiG-29K participated in the Theatre Level Readiness and Operational Exercise (TROPEX) – 2015 exercise of the Indian Navy and carried out bombing runs as the leading strike arm of the carrier force.