Saturday, July 2, 2011

India May Ground MiG-29K Trainer

India may ground the MiG-29KUB in the wake of the twin-seat carrier-based fighter crashing in Russia on June 23.

“We have sought clarifications from [Russian Aircraft Corp.] as the aircraft was still with them and was being flown by their own pilots,” says India’s naval chief, Adm. Nirmal Verma. “At the moment, we have not received any feedback, but if there is a technical reason that demands grounding, we will do that.”

The MiG-29KUB, which was manufactured for the Indian navy and was part of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft-carrier deal, crashed in southern Russia’s Astrakhan region, killing its two-member crew.

The Indian air force also operates a variant of the MiG-29 and these, too, have been plagued with problems, with nine aircraft crashing since 1997. The air force has been striving to counter the public allegations about MiGs being “flying coffins.”

India ordered 16 MiG-29Ks from Russia under a program worth over $900 million in 2004. The deal envisions delivery of 12 MiG-29Ks and four MiG-29KUBs along with training and the delivery of simulators and spare parts. The contract also provides another 30-aircraft option to be delivered by 2015.

In early June, India received its third batch of MiG-29s, bringing the number of aircraft received so far to 11. The first batch, comprising two MiG-29Ks and two MiG-29KUBs, arrived in 2009, while a second batch of one each was received in late 2010.

Of the 16 MiG-29s India has purchased, 12 are single-seat fighters and four are twin-seat trainers. India has so far fielded nine MiG-29Ks with an extended range of 3,000 km (1,900 mi.) and capable of firing air-to-air and air-to-sea missiles.

The MiG-29KUB is the trainer version of the -29K that the Indian navy will operate from the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (the erstwhile Admiral Gorshkov) when it joins the fleet in 2013.

These aircraft are operating from the Goa Naval Air Station until the INS Vikramaditya is delivered to the Indian navy by Russia’s Sevmash shipyard, which is carrying out a refit of the warship.

Verma says an Indian navy team was present in the MiG Corp. factory to oversee the aircraft’s manufacturing.

The Russian defense ministry has already grounded its entire MiG-29K fleet until the crash investigation is completed.

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