Russia keen on jointly developing MiG-29K with Indian companies
Russian defense major MiG said it's open to providing transfer of technology and joint development of its MiG-29K warplane to Indian companies for the Indian Navy (IN). In January, the IN started the process of acquiring 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its aircraft carriers. India already has 45 MiG-29Ks in its inventory but the aircraft has been mired by serviceability issues and other deficiencies.
Currently, the India Navy has 45 Russian-made MiG-29K fighter jets in its inventory. Some of these operate from its sole aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya. However, they face deficiencies arising from defects in engines, airframes and fly-by-wire systems, according to a Comptroller and Auditor General report. This has caused severe serviceability problems, which means a large part of the fleet remains unavailable when needed.
The navy's hunt for 57 multi-role carrier-borne fighters (MRCBF) is meant to augment operational capabilities for its under-construction Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) INS Vikrant. Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba previously said the Vikrant is expected to be commissioned in 2020. The navy is also working on designing the IAC-II, INS Vishal, which will be much larger than the Vikramaditya and Vikrant.
"We are considering various options for long-term and perspective cooperation, including those within the framework of the Make in India programme," said MiG CEO Ilya Tarasenko. He said MiG would send the Indian government a detailed proposal on the matter. He said MiG has been supplying warplanes to India for over 50 years and is further looking to strengthen its relationship with India.
Tarasenko highlighted the MiG-29K's excellent combat results during operations in Syria while being flown out of Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. He said the IN's MiG-29K, operating from INS Vikramaditya, proved their prowess during the recent Malabar exercise which featured the US and Japanese navies. He claimed the MiG-29K has tactical and technical advantages over Boeing's F/A-18 which has also been offered to India.
The Russian-built MiG-29K has little chance of being selected by the Indian Navy. The problems with the aircraft (explained earlier) were among the very reason the navy decided to look for other fighter jets. However, several naval officials had in the past defended the MiG-29K, calling it the best choice available. For now, it remains the navy's primary combat fighter aircraft.