New Delhi: The Indian Navy will induct on February 19 the first four Russian-made MiG-29K combat jets for deployment on the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.
"The aircraft will be formally inducted on February 19," a senior Indian Navy official said.
The fighters are operating offshore Goa in the absence of aircraft carrier Gorshkov, which is to be commissioned as INS Vikramaditya. The combat jets had arrived in the country in knocked down condition last year on December 4.
"The jets have been assembled and the Russian pilots are flying them. It is a standard procedure. Very soon Indian Navy pilots will take over from them," the official added.
The jets were purchased by the Indian Navy as part of a USD 1.5 billion deal signed with Russia in January 2004 for Admiral Gorshkov. Of this, USD 740 million was meant for the aircraft and the balance for refitting the carrier. The Russians have now upped the price to between USD 2.2 billion and USD 2.9 billion and negotiations are currently under way.
The Navy will eventually be getting 12 MiG-29K single-seater aircraft and four MiG-29KUB twin-seat trainer aircraft, some in flyaway condition. The trainer version is similar to the single-seater but with a slightly reduced operational range.
The Navy has named its MiG-29K squadron the "Black Panthers".
The jets will undertake shore-based sorties from Goa as the 45,000-tonne Kiev class aircraft carrier is scheduled to be delivered by 2012.
The contract for the jets also stipulates the procurement of hardware for pilot training and aircraft maintenance, including flight simulators and interactive ground and sea-based training systems.
Indian Navy pilots were sent to the US for deck landing training and qualified flying instructors (QFIs) to Russia for conversion flying (converting to different aircraft).
The pilots will do the conversion flying in Goa under the supervision of QFIs. Four to five batches comprising four pilots each had gone to the US for deck landing training.
The Navy`s MiG-29Ks have arrester gear and stronger landing gear for carrier landings, folding wings and rust-proofing to prevent corrosion from salt water.
The aircraft features a fully digitised glass cockpit, improved engine protection against ingestion of foreign particles like birds, a multi-mode radar and increased range. The contract ensures that the Navy gets the entire spectrum of services, including a full mission simulator.
The MiG-29K will 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 during the day and at night and in any weather condition.
The aircraft, the first bought by the Navy after the Sea Harriers, will also be capable of playing the role of midair refueller.
In a bid to revamp its aviation capability, the Indian Navy will also be inking a contract to buy 29 more MiG-29Ks worth nearly USD 1.2 billion from Russia. A Russian team arrived here in January to fine-tune the contract terms.