Maiden night landing of Mig-29K fighter on INS Vikrant

Source – Hindustan Times

An Indian Navy MiG-29K fighter jet on Wednesday landed on the indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant for the first time at night, an important step towards the warship becoming fully operational along with its air wing by the year-end, navy officials said on Thursday.

The aircraft carrier is currently sailing in the Arabian Sea. It was commissioned into the navy last September, marking a pivotal point in the country’s quest for self-reliance in the defence manufacturing sector.

“The challenging night landing trial demonstrates the resolve, skill and professionalism of the Vikrant crew and naval pilots,” navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said. The development came three months after a MiG-29K and a prototype of the naval version of the locally made light combat aircraft (LCA) landed and took off from the aircraft carrier for the first time during day in February.

The aircraft carrier is presently undergoing air certification and flight integration trials with rotary wing and fixed wing aircraft to achieve combat-ready state at the earliest, Madhwal added.

The ongoing flight trials on board INS Vikrant involve the Russian-origin MiG-29K fighter jets that use the ski-jump to take-off, and are recovered by arrestor wires or what is known as STOBAR (short take-off but arrested recovery) in navy parlance.

Twelve MiG-29Ks are likely to be deployed on Vikrant, and the carrier will operate a new deck-based fighter that the navy is looking to buy as an interim measure to meet its requirements before the indigenous twin-engine deck-based fighter (TEDBF) is ready in a few years. The first prototype of TEDBF could make its maiden flight by 2026 and be ready for production by 2031, the officials said.

The navy’s other aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, operates MiG-29K fighters

The French Rafale M fighter has edged out the American F/A-18 Super Hornet in a direct competition to equip the navy with 26 new deck-based fighters for INS Vikrant, as previously reported by HT.

The Rafale is manufactured by Dassault Aviation while the Super Hornet is a Boeing product.

Dassault and Boeing demonstrated the capabilities of their aircraft to the navy at a shore-based test facility in Goa in January 2022 and June 2022 respectively. The 26 fighters that the navy plans to buy are only a stopgap until the country develops its own TEDBF.

Vikrant which has 76% indigenous content, will operate an air wing consisting of 30 aircraft including the new fighters, MiG-29Ks, Kamov-31 choppers, MH-60R multi-role helicopters, and advanced light helicopters.

The 45,000-tonne Vikrant was built at Cochin Shipyard at a cost of ₹20,000 crore. Only the US, the UK, Russia, France and China have the capability to build aircraft carriers this size. It has been named after aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which was operated by the navy from 1961 to 1997.

A second indigenous aircraft carrier to project India’s maritime power in the far seas is also on the navy’s radar, the officials said.

INS Vikramaditya was bought second-hand from Russia for $ 2.33 billion. The navy has been arguing it needs three such floating airfields given its vast area of interest.

Vikrant is the fourth aircraft carrier to be operated by the Indian Navy — first Vikrant (British origin) from 1961 to 1997, INS Viraat (British origin) from 1987 to 2016 and INS Vikramaditya 2013 onwards.

Vikrant is 262 metres long, has a height of 61 metres (keel to mast) and its flight deck measures 12,500 square metres (equivalent to 10 Olympic-size swimming pools.) It has an endurance of 7,500 nautical miles, a maximum speed of 28 knots, 2,300 compartments and can carry a crew of 1,600.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *