GOA, India — Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony has now confirmed that India will order an additional 29 MiG-29K combat jets for the Indian navy.
This follows the chief of naval staff, Adm. Nirmal Verma, who in his first news conference after becoming chief last year told Aviation Week that more MiG-29Ks would be ordered in Phase Two.
The news comes as the Indian navy prepares to induct four Mig-29Ks – part of an order for 16 signed in 2004, of which 12 will be single-seat MiG-29Ks and the rest double-seat trainers (MiG-29 KUBs) – by the end of the year.
The order for the additional 29 would be a contract option of the 16 MiG-29Ks, bringing the total order to 45. The MiG-29Ks are to operate from the 44,570-ton Admiral Gorshkov carrier,to be renamed Vikramaditya, which got caught in a web of financial uncertainty and political wrangling between India and Russia. Now there is a belief that the deal for the additional aircraft will be signed and the price of the Gorshkov will be decided during the upcoming visit of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in March.
The original order of MiG-29Ks was part of a $1.5 billion deal outlined years ago that included Gorshkov. Moscow since then has increased the price for Gorshkov to a range of $2.2 billion - $2.9 billion.
Work has started at INS Hansa, the Indian Navy’s aviation base, on a Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) for training on the naval version of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) as well as for takeoffs and landings of the MiG-29Ks.
The SBTF in India will be the second of its kind in the world after Ukraine, according to Surendra Ahuja, INS Hansa commanding officer.
The agile new fighter, which flies at an altitude up to 56,100 feet and at Mach 1.9, has many improvements over its predecessor, including a larger wing area, strengthened landing gear, air-to-air refueling capability, RD-33Mk engine and full authority digital engine control.
During the flying display at the induction ceremony, the Mig-29Ks broke into an almost vertical climb within seconds after takeoff. The air display included a flyover of the Sea Harrier,Ilyushin-38 (Sea Dragon), Chetak, Kiran and Dornier.
- Neelam Mathews (email@example.com)