Russia Delivers "Substandard" MiG-29 Fighter Fleet to Indian Navy
NEW DELHI: The Indian Navy’s (IN’s) MiG-29K fighter fleet is being delivered by Russia in a ‘substandard’ and incomplete condition’ the UK-based IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly has reported.
Quoting senior Indian and Russian officials, Jane’s on Thursday revealed that complaints regarding the single and dual seat MiG-29K/KuB ‘s centered around Russia’s inability to incorporate all features agreed upon in the contract for 45 fighters signed in 2004 and 2010 for $2.24 billion.
These officials said this was due to the 2014 arms embargo imposed on Ukraine contracted to provide several MiG-29K components.
The embargo followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea two years ago, which in turn, resulted in a ban on Ukraine exporting any military-use items to Russia. Alongside, the US and European Union states too prohibited the supply of defence items to Moscow.
Accordingly, since Russia was unable to incorporate these systems and sub-systems onto the MiG-29K’s, the IN had little choice but to import them directly from Ukraine.
These were then integrated onto the fighters at Indian Naval Air Station at Hansa in Goa, where they are based.
Jane’s quotes one Indian specialist as saying that the fighters were being ‘upgraded and brought up to spec on the flight-line’ in Goa.
Defence analysts said this was in ‘total contravention’ of the fighters’ sale agreement and could render the contract vulnerable to cancellation.
“Since Russia is not supplying the fighters in accordance with the sale agreement, the IN is within its rights to terminate the deal” said Amit Cowshish, former Ministry of Defence (MoD) acquisition advisor.
The Russian fighter is being delivered in an unfinished condition, a state of affairs that is unacceptable by any standards, he added.
The IN was unavailable for comment.
Sixteen MiG-29’s were acquired in 2004 for $525 million to constitute air group of INS Vikramaditya, the refurbished 44,750 tonne Russian aircraft carrier.
Another 29 fighters were procured six years later in 2010 for $1.72 billion to operate off INS Vikrant, the 40,000 tonne carrier under constriction at Cochin Shipyard Limited, and scheduled for commissioning in 2018.
Deliveries of all 45 fighters, which began in late 2009, are scheduled for completion by 2017.
But industry officials said these could be delayed due to the problems of sourcing systems and components from Ukraine and fitting them onto the fighters in Goa.
In May the IN had formally announced that the MiG-29K/KuBs would succeed the retiring vertical-short take-off and landing single-seat Sea Harrier’s, and are presently the navy’s only fighters.
The UK-magazine also goes onto declare that even INS Vikramaditya is not fully equipped for carrier operations, despite its formal induction into service in May 2014.
“One of the items still lacking is a proper emergency landing barrier for other-than-normal landings aboard the ship (carrier)” an Indian specialist told the magazine.
This could result in the pilot sacrificing the aircraft at sea, hoping that recovery crews rescue him, he added.
The IN’s decision to opt for the MiG-29K was driven largely by a desire for commonality with the Indian Air Force, which has been operating MiG-29s since 1985, and reliable, easy access to parts and spares support from a wide user base.
India's selection also revived Mikoyan's MiG-29 naval variant programme, which had been flagging with limited home market support.
The IN is Russia’s sole overseas customer for the MIG-29K/KuB.