The Indian Navy’s only fighter aircraft, MiG-29K, continues to face problems as the maritime force feels that the fighter jet needs to be further improved to carry out operations from aircraft carriers, which is supposed to be its main role.
‘The plane needs to be made more durable as very frequently after landings, the settings of the plane change and they have to be re-set,’ sources in the Navy said.
The Navy operates the MiG-29Ks from its Goa air base as well as the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.
After phasing out of the Sea Harrier planes, it will not be the only fighter aircraft left with the Navy.
The Indian side has taken up the matter with the Russians who have already sent their technical teams to look into problems, to find a solution, as the aircraft are still in the warranty period.
‘The issue has been taken up with the Russians at a senior level as India and Russia discuss their military ties and issues at multiple forums including the level of the heads of states,’ the source said.
Naval fighter aircraft need to be very tough as they land heavily on the aircraft carrier’s deck and have to maintain high speeds to be ready to take off in case they fail to hook to the arrester wire on the warship.
The fighter plane, which is operated only by India, has faced operational deficiencies for a long time due to defects in engines, airframe and fly-by-wire system leading to very low availability for operations. This was pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (GAG) in its report last year.
‘The MiG-29K, which is a carrier-borne multi-role aircraft and the mainstay of integral fleet air defence, is riddled with problems relating to airframe, RD MK-33 engine and fly-bywire system,’ the CAG said.
Serviceability of the warplanes was low, ranging from 15.93 per cent to 37.63 per cent and that of MiG-29KUB ranging from 21.30 per cent to 47.14 per cent.
Serviceability refers to the total number aircraft available for operation at a time from the overall capacity.
The auditor had also noted that the service life of the aircraft was 6,000 hours or 25 years (whichever is earlier) and with issues facing the MiG-29K/KUB, the operational life of the aircraft already delivered would be reduced.
India ordered 45 MiG-29K aircraft and equipment worth `10,000 crore in two separate orders — in 2004 and 2010 — from Russia.
It is the primary combat platform on INS Viramaditya, the country’s only operational aircraft carrier inducted in 2014.
The MiG-29K aircraft are also expected to serve on the homemade aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which is still under construction and not expected to be inducted into service before the year 2023.