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Indian pilots learning to fly MiG-29K/KUB fighters off Vikramaditya

Indian MiG-29KIndian naval aviators are learning to fly MiG-29K/KUB multirole carrierborne fighters off the Vikramaditya multirole aircraft carrier that has sailed to India’s shores from Russia a year ago. The first landing on the deck of the new Indian carrier took place here on 7 February 2014. The MiG-29KUB was controlled by the Indian Navy 303 Sqn commanding officer, Navy Capt. Ajay Theophilus, with Andrei Shishov, a test pilot with the MiG corporation, occupying the back seat in the instructor-pilot capacity. On the same day, there was another MiG-29KUB landing on the ship, with the aircraft controlled by the Indian pilot. Whose instructor pilot was MiG’s chief test pilot Mikhail Belyayev.

The early landings on the Vikramaditya were preceded by a series of flights of IN pilots at the land-based training facility in Goa state, with the facility fitted with a ski-jump ramp/arrestor gear simulator. Training flights of Indian naval MiG-29 pilots, including snagging the arrestor cables, began in January 2014.

The first landings of the Indian MiG-29KUBs on the Vikramaditya took place just a month after the arrival of the ship to the customer’s shores. As is known, the protracted overhaul, conversion and handover of the Vikramaditya carrier (previously Soviet Navy’s Admiral Gorshkov carrier) by Russian shipbuilders to the Indian Navy were completed in late 2013. The ship was handed over to the customer in a ceremony hosted by Sevmash in Severodvinsk on 16 November 2013. Then, the preparations were launched for her cruise to her new station - the Indian Navy’s advanced naval base Kadamba vic. Karwar in Karnataka state.

The aircraft carrier left the roadstead of Severodvinsk and headed for India on 26 November 2013. At first, she cruised around Europe, then passed the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean, having made a brief stopover in Lisbon, and then entered the Red Sea via the Suez. On the first day of a new year, the latest Indian aircraft carrier and her escort entered the Arabian Sea. There, the joy and pride of the Indian Navy was met by a large task force of nine warships of the Indian Navy’s Western Fleet, led by Rear Adm. Anil Kumar Chawla on board the Viraat aircraft carrier. Finally, the Vikramaditya arrived at its station on 7 January 2014.

In all, the first cruise of the Vikramaditya under command of Commodore Suraj Berry took 42 days, including 26 sea days, on which the ship covered 10,212 nm. During the cruise, there were 177 Russian specialists on board in addition to the Indian crew. They continued to assist IN personnel in learning the aircraft carrier for a year.

It is worth mentioning that the work on the Vikramaditya is not the only experience in the cooperation between Russian industry and India in aircraft carrier construction. In particular, Anatoly Shlemov, chief of the Governmental Defence Acquisition Programme Department, United Shipbuilding Corporation, said at the Defexpo 2014 arms show in New Delhi in February 2014: “Russia has delivered the equipment designed for the Indian carrierborne aircraft simulator system and for the latest Indian Project 71 aircraft carrier”. The ship, which has inherited her famous name Vikrant from her predecessor, was launched on 12 August 2013 at the Cochin Shipyard. She is slated to start her factory sea trials in 2016 and to be commissioned by the Indian Navy some time in late 2018.

Russian-made MiG-29K/KUB fighters will make up the mainstay of the new Vikrant’s CAG, too. During 2009-2011 the MiG corporation has supplied the Indian Navy with the 16 MiG-29K/KUB aircraft under the first contract made in 2004 and in late 2012 began deliveries of 29 fighters more under the second contract signed in 2010. The first four MiGs under this deal were handed over to the customer in late 2012 with seven more followed them in 2013. The next six MiG-29K/KUB fighters were delivered to India last year. Overall, the air arm of the Indian Navy is to receive 45 MiG-29K/KUB fighters under the two deals of which more than 30 have been already delivered. The activation of 303 Sqn (Black Panthers) on MiG-29K/KUB aircraft by the Indian Navy took place in a ceremony at INS Hansa, Goa state, on 1 May 2013.

The single-seat MiG-29K and twin-seat MiG-29KUB aircraft are the "4++" generation multirole fighters intended for air defense missions of naval forces, air superiority gaining, sea and ground targets destruction with the high precision guided weapons day and night and in any weather conditions. The MiG-29K/KUB carrier-based fighters are the basic aircraft of a new unified family including also the MiG-29M/M2 and MiG-35 aircraft. The MiG-29K/KUB aircraft could be based on the aircraft carriers with tonnage from 28,000 tons, equipped with take-off ramp and landing arrestor, as well as at the airfields.

The main MiG-29K/KUB technical and technological innovations include an improved airframe with about 15% composite materials application, folding wing with upgraded high-lift devices improving take-off/landing performance, fly-by-wire flight control system with quadruple redundancy, increased weapons load, stored at eight external hardpoints, increased internal fuel capacity and in-flight refueling possibility, etc.

The MiG-29K/KUB fighters have improved operational characteristics and higher reliability of assemblies, systems and units. In comparison with the previous fighters, the MiG-29K/KUB service life is increased more than twice with a flight hour cost is reduced about 2.5 times. The MiG-29K/KUB fighters operate without overhaul.

The power plant includes two RD-33MK afterburner turbofan engines with increased thrust power, equipped with smokeless combustion chambers and a new FADEC control system. These engines are of the module structure and have increased reliability and service life.

The avionics suite is of the open architecture based on MIL-STD-1553B standard. MiG-29K/KUB have multirole multimode pulse-Doppler slotted-array Zhuk-ME radar manufactured by Phazotron-NIIR corporation. As compared with radars of the previous generation, Zhuk-ME has wider scanning angle in azimuth, twice longer target detection range, less weight and increased reliability. It provides tracking up to 10 air targets. Weapon control system also includes a state-of-the-art multi-channel optronic system.

MiG-29K/KUB weapons include a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, guided bombs as well as rockets, aerial bombs and built-in cannon of 30 mm caliber. Both the single and twin-seat versions of the aircraft have the same avionics and weapons.

(Photo: Indian Ministry of Defence)

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