Will ground MiG-29 if needed: Indian Navy Chief
New Delhi: Against the backdrop of a twin-seater MiG-29KUB combat jet meant for the Indian Navy crashing in Russia, the Navy said on Friday it will consider grounding the planes it already has if there was a technical reason to do so.
Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma told reporters here that the force was yet to get feedback from the Russians on the air crash involving the MiG-29KUB plane in south Russia's Astrakhan region on Thursday.
The aircraft is the trainer version of the MiG-29K that the Indian Navy fleet will operate from the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (erstwhile Admiral Gorshkov) when it joins the fleet in 2013. The Navy has purchased 16 planes, of which 12 are single-seaters and four are trainers.
"We did get this input (air crash) yesterday (Thursday). So we have sought a clarification from the Russian company...because this aircraft was still with the company and was being flown by its own pilots. At the moment, we have not got the feedback," Verma said.
"If they (MiG Corporation) feel there is a technical reason to do it, which demands grounding, that would be done," he said.
Verma said an Indian Navy team was present in the MiG Corporation factory to oversee the aircraft's manufacturing and the naval headquarters here was in constant touch with it.
"So if there is any reason to believe that there is some technical reason, we will address it at that time. At this point of time, that is not the case," he said.
Both pilots were killed in the Russian crash. The Russian defence ministry has already grounded its entire MiG-29K fleet till the investigation into the crash was over.
Of the 16 MiG-29s India has purchased, 12 are single-seater fighters and four are twin-seater trainers. India has already got delivery of 11 aircraft, including two trainers.
These aircraft are operating from the Goa Naval Air Station till the time INS Vikramaditya is delivered to the Indian Navy by Russia's Sevmash shipyard, which is carrying out a refit on the warship.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) also operates a variant of the MiG-29 and these too have been plagued with problems, with nine aircraft crashing since 1997. The IAF currently has some single-seater MiG-29s and 10 twin-seaters.