Flight trials of the MiG-29K on the INS Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorshkov) in the Barents Sea have been completed. Deliveries of the naval version of the fighter to India continue, with the carrier to follow on November 15, and the Russian Navy will soon receive its first MiG-29K. The Russian defense ministry confirmed this month that its only remaining carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, will be modernized to accept MiG-29Ks as well as the Sukhoi Su-25UTG light attack and Su-33 combat aircraft.
The latest series of flights, conducted in August and September, used two factory aircraft (a MiG-29KUB two-seater, side number 204, and a single-seat MiG-29K, side number 941). The dozen flights demonstrated takeoffs and landings at night, and with a maximum practical combat load specified by the Indian customer. These trials followed a previous series of 42 customer-specified missions from the same carrier between June and August last year.
RAC MiG director general Sergei Korotkov commented, “The completion of the flight trials from the carrier’s deck marks a milestone in the life-cycle of the ship Project 11430 as well as the MiG-29K/29KUB program.” RAC MiG’s next step will be to train Indian navy pilots in the techniques of ship-borne operations.
The MiG-29K/KUB are attributed to the “4++” generation of Russian combat aircraft. They are intended for air defense of a carrier task group: establishing air superiority over the theater of sea-land operations, destroying land and seagoing targets with precision-guidance munitions in all weathers, day and night. The customized Indian navy MiG-29KUB first flew in January 2007, followed in March 2008 by the first flight of a deliverable aircraft.
In 2011 RAC MiG delivered the last airframe in the initial batch of 16 aircraft to the Indian navy under the contract signed in 2004. Last year the manufacturer delivered the first four of 29 more naval MiGs to India. The Russian Navy has ordered 24 MiG-29Ks.
The Admiral Kuznetsov will be modernized within the next five years by the Sevmash shipyard. Conversion of the INS Vikramaditya has been controversial, with the cost to India having risen from some $600 million to more than $2 billion.