The [Indian] Navy will formally induct the Russian-made MiG-29K naval fighter jets for deployment on Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier on 19th February in Goa.
The first four of the 16 MiG-29Ks that India had bought from Russia in 2004 along with Gorshkov were delivered at the INS Hansa naval base in Goa on 4th December last.
“The formal induction ceremony has been fixed for February 19 at INS Hansa. The squadron has been named Black Panthers,” a Navy spokesperson said in New Delhi on Tuesday.
The fighter jets that arrived in Goa in a knocked-down condition in a transport plane were re-assembled at INS Hansa, which also has a maintenance and training facility for the aircraft and its pilots.
“At present the Russian technicians and pilots are based in Goa to do the reassembling and training our technicians and pilots to take over maintenance and operations soon,” he said.
After induction, the fighter jets would be operated temporarily from the shore-based facility at INS Hansa till the actual delivery of Gorshkov, rechristened as INS Vikramaditya, slated for 2012.
Under the USD 1.5 billion deal signed in March 2004 for the 45,000-tonne Kiev class Gorshkov and the MiG-29Ks, USD 974 million went towards the warship and USD 526 million for the fighter jets.
Of the 16 jets, 12 are MiG-29K single-seater fighters and the rest four are MiG-29KUB twin-seater trainers.
India is all set to ink another deal with Russia for 29 more MiG-29Ks for USD 1.2 billion in a bid to strengthen its naval aviation wing.
The MiG-29Ks flight operations on Gorshkov will be in the Short Take Off But Arrested Landing (STOBAR) configuration for which the ship is being re-modified at Sevmash yard in Russia.
To train Indian pilots for STOBAR operations, India has already set up the world’s third shore-based training facility at INS Hansa.
The pilots were also sent to the US for deck landing training and on board a French aircraft carrier for operations training, apart from Russia for Qualified Flying Instructors’ conversion training.
The aircraft has arrester gear on its tail to help hooking onto the arrestor wires on board the landing deck of the carrier.
It also has stronger landing gear to withstand the arrested landing on board the carriers, folding wings and rust-proofing to prevent corrosion.
Fitted with a fully digitised glass cockpit, improved engine protection against ingestion of foreign particles like birds, a multi-mode radar and increased range, the MiG-29Ks will also provide aerial cover to the carrier’s battle group, acquire air superiority and destroy sea-borne and ground-based targets with guided high-precision weapons in all weather, day-and-night conditions.
India currently operates the Sea Harrier jump jets on board its solitary Centaur Class aircraft carrier, which celebrated its 50 years of naval service both in the Royal Navy as HMS Hermes and in the Indian Navy as INS Viraat.
Of the 30-odd Sea Harriers the Navy bought from Britain along with Viraat in late 1980s, only a dozen of them are left in service.