India Plans Additional MiG-29K Purchase, Localized MiG-29K Maintenance

On February 3, 2021, the first day of Aero India 2021, Vladimir Drozhzhov, Deputy Head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) said that Russia has responded to a preliminary request from India for additional MiG-29K/KUB fighters.

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The fighters would likely be used to raise a third squadron of MiG-29K/KUB, which will embark on India's first home-built aircraft carrier INS (Indian Naval Ship) Vikrant. The carrier is scheduled to be commissioned in 2023.

Russia earlier delivered 45 MiG-29K/KUB fighters to India in two lots. Delivery of the first lot of 16 aircraft was completed in 2011 and delivery of the second lot of 29 aircraft was completed in 2016.

The IN (Indian Navy) is operating two squadrons of MiG 29K/KUB aircraft - INAS (Indian Naval Air Squadron) 303, based at INS (Indian Naval Station) Dega in Visakhapatnam, is an operational squadron that has been undertaking embarked operations from the aircraft carrier  INS Vikramaditya since January 2014. INAS 300, based at INS Hansa in Goa, is the training squadron that was commissioned in May 2016 at Goa and undertakes training of fighter pilots on MiG 29 K/ KUB.

On December 3, 2019, India's Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh had stated that INS Vikrant will embark on MiG-29K.

The Indian Navy on January 24, 2017 released a RFI (Request for Information) for procurement of approximately 57 Multi role carrier borne fighters (MRCBF) for aircraft carriers of the Indian Navy (IN). A tender is expected to follow. However, the planned procurement, which is likely to take around 10 years going by past procurement timelines, is aimed at replacing the MiG-29K fighters on completion of their operational life..

It's likely that the additional MiG-29K/KUB procurement planed now would be made through an intergovernmental agreement.

Also, on the opening day of Aero India 2021, Crown group, an Indian company that  specialises in defence aerospace maintenance, announced it has entered into a strategic partnership with Russian aircraft corporation MiG for providing post-warranty support to the Indian Navy's MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB fighters.

The Delhi-based Crown group's subsidiary company - Aviatech Enterprises Pvt Ltd (AEPL) - has entered into a "framework agreement" with joint stock company MiG in this regard.

Besides defence aerospace maintenance, Crown group also specialises in repair and operations, and aviation engineering services. The group has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Russian company United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) for maintenance and servicing of Indian Navy ships.

AEPL's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rear Admiral (retd.) Srinivas Kanugo said, "The association of Indian partner, AEPL, in the follow-on support contracts addresses critical maintenance, logistic and supply chain issues on a 24X7 basis, thus enhancing the availability of aircraft and associated systems."

The framework agreement has been concluded between AEPL and MiG under an inter-governmental agreement that was signed between India and Russia in September 2019, the company said in a statement.

Localized maintenance of MiG-29K/KUB would be in tune with the Indian government's 'Atamnirbhar Bharat' (Self sufficient India) paradigm for industry and would strengthen Russia's chances of winning the planned tender for 57 Multi role carrier borne fighters (MRCBF) with an improved variant of the MiG-29K.

Russia is known to be working on improving the MiG-29K. The latest MiG-29KR / KUBR deck fighters of the Russian Navy will be equipped with the NSCI-KOS helmet mounted augmented reality system. Besides essential piloting information such as altitude, speed, course and g-load the pilot will see situational awareness. 

NSCI-CBS will display information about the position of the targets, the type of weapons used and the amount of ammunition on the aircraft's suspensions. When landing or when operating at low altitudes, the system will calculate and project an image of a virtual “corridor” and “gate” in front of the pilot, to facilitate safe touch down or maneuver even at night and in bad weather.

Besides helping pilot in combat and when landing on an aircraft carrier in difficult conditions, the technology will come in handy when training pilots on computer simulators.

Information about altitude, speed, and course of the aircraft, as well as current overload, will be displayed to the pilot of the fighter on a special helmet-mounted monocular. The pilot will simultaneously see the real picture and formed by the computer, "superimposed" on it. At critical moments of a battle or landing, the pilot will not need to be distracted by instruments or an indicator on the windshield.

According to the test pilot of the Hero of Russia Oleg Mutovin, “I can say from my own experience that the most difficult thing in aviation is landing at night on the deck of an aircraft carrier, especially if the weather is bad.” NSCI-CBS will display the specified path. And in aerial combat, the system will be able to increase the so-called situational awareness of the pilot. Even when turning his head, he will see the flight parameters, the state of the weapon, and information about the target. Therefore, the pilot at any time without distraction will be ready for action.

Author: Vijainder K Thakur

©New Defence Order. Strategy 2021

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