Russia is likely to to pitch an aircraft based on upgraded MiG-29KUB for the Indian Navy’s carrier based fighter jet procurement program, the RFI for which was issued last month.
When asked if Russia is proposing any aircraft for the January 17 RFI, UAC First Vice-President Alexander
Tulyakov said, “We have been working in connection with the upgrading of MiG29K, carrier based aircraft. MiG successfully completed two contracts to supply MiG-29 aircraft to India last year. Our proposal for the tender would be a platform based on the upgraded MiG-29KUB”.
“Customer is king, actually we have not yet submitted our proposal and definitely, we shall do our best work out some issues in relation to that. Our team is preparing answers to that RFI. They are not yet ready based on the requirement,” Tulykov answered during a press briefing during the AeroIndia 2017 Air Show Wednesday.
The Indian Ministry of Defence intends to procure approximately 57 Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters (MRCBF) for aircraft carriers of the Indian Navy.
The MRCBF are intended as day and night capable, all weather multi-role deck based combat aircraft which can be used for Air Defence (AD), Air to Surface Operations, Buddy Refuelling, Reconnaissance, EW missions etc from Indian Navy aircraft carriers, according to the Request for Information published by the ministry in January this year.
Among various questions put forth in the RFI, the ministry asks whether the aircraft have capability to operate from both STOBAR (Short Take-off But Arrested Recovery) and CATOBAR (Catapult Take-off But Arrested Recovery) aircraft carriers without any modification to the aircraft?
The Navy currently operates Russian MiG-29K fighters from the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and which will also fly from the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant once it enters service.
The MiG-29Ks were procured by India with the INS Vikramaditya and it is the only country in the world to operate the aircraft.
India needs the fighter jets for its second aircraft carrier being locally built at the Cochin shipyard. The carrier along with the existing INS Vikramaditya which houses only MiG-29 K fighters are expected to be the bulwark of the Indian Navy’s force projection.
The price of the contract has been estimated on the cost of each carrier borne jet at around US$200 million each if it were a western fighter or under US$100 million if it were to be a Russian jet.
The likely contenders for the contract can be Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, a naval version of the Dassault Rafale, Russian Su-33 that were used in the recent Syrian operations and another Russian-carrier based fighter, the MiG-29K Fulcrum fighter jet. India has a total of 51 MiG-29Ks of which 16 operate from the carrier INS Vikramaditya.
Saab has earlier offered its Sea Gripen, the naval version of Gripen NG to India. The Sea Gripen is intended for both CATOBAR and STOBAR aircraft carriers. Sea Gripen is the only aircraft that fits with the intended RFI’s terms for aircraft which can operate in both CATOBAR and STOBAR take-off and landing systems.
The selection of the aircraft will depend on what launch system will be used aboard the new carries currently under construction.