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MiG-29K fielded with Russian Naval Aviation

_The deliveries of production-standard MiG-29K/KUB multirole carrierborne fighters to the Combat Training and Conversion Centre of the Russian Naval Aviation in Yeisk, Krasnodar Territory, on the coast of the Sea of Azov, started in September 2015. A new carrierborne fighter air regiment with the air arm of the Russian Navy will operate the fighters. The MiG Corporation landed a contract for 24 aircraft of the type (20 MiG-29K single-seaters and four MiG-29KUB two-seaters) from the Russian Defense Ministry on 25 February 2012. The manufacturer had mastered production of the MiG-29K/KUB fighters for the Indian Navy by then, with the deliveries having been under way since 2009.

The first MiG-29KUB ordered by the Russian Defense Ministry conducted its maiden flight from the airfield of MiG Corp.'s production facility in Lukhovitsy, Moscow Region, on 15 October 2013. Before year-end 2013, the first four aircraft (two MiG-29K single-seaters and two MiG-29KUB two-seaters) had been delivered and subjected to an extensive test programme necessitated by the difference between the Russian Navy fighter and the one made for the Indian Navy. They are different in the avionics in the first place. The Russian Navy MiG-29K/KUB carries a number of more advanced systems, and most of the foreign-made systems used in the export variant have been replaced with Russian-made ones.

Last year, MiG Corp. made 10 more fighters for the Russian Navy. They included eight single-seaters and two twin-seaters. The customer accepted the fighters officially in December 2014. The aircraft were given the new Russian Naval Aviation dark grey colour scheme, including the St. Andrew's flag. As of summer 2015, they were at the airfield in Lukhovitsy, where Russian Naval Aviation flying and technical crews were converting to the type. The planes began to move to the airfield in Yeisk on 17 September. According to Russian Naval Aviation commander Maj.-Gen. Igor Kozhin, the MiG-29K/KUB fighters will be fielded this year with the new ship-based air regiment that will be activated by year-end, with the regiment to have 24 MiG-29K/KUB fighters. The manufacturer is to deliver the last ten MiG-29Ks under the contract by then. Russian carrier-based pilots will start flying them from the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier soon.

MiG-29K fighters have passed carrier basing tests already. They made their first landings on deck of the Kuznetsov carrier as far back as September 2009. Full-scale flight trials of the MiG-29K/KUB had been held onboard the Indian aircraft carrier Vikramaditya (the former Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier of the Russian Navy Northern Fleet, upgraded for the Indian Navy) from July to September 2012 and from August to September 2013. Over 160 sorties had been flown, and about 90 deck landings and takeoffs, including 12 at night, had been performed during the tests.

Indian naval aviators have learnt operating their MiG-29K/KUB fighters from the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier that arrived in India in January 2014 and entered the Indian Navy's inventory. India had received as many as 33 aircraft of the type by early 2015.

As is known, the first MiG-29KUB prototype performed its maiden flight in January 2007. MiG Corp. launched production of the type the next year. It delivered 16 aircraft (12 MiG-29K single-seaters and four MiG-29KUB two-seaters) to the Indian Ministry of Defence under the 2004 contract during 2009-11. The delivery of 29 more aircraft to India under the 2010 contract has been underway since late 2012. The Indian Navy activated the first squadron of 16 MiG-29 K/KUB carrierborne multirole fighters in May 2013. MiG Corp. Director General Sergei Korotkov said at the Aero India 2015 air show in Bangalore in February 2015 that the Indian Navy was to take delivery six fighters more this year, with the last six MiG-29K/KUBs to be shipped in 2016. As a result, the Indian Navy will operate 45 MiG-29K/KUB fighters, but, according to Sergei Korotkov, Indian may take an interest in extra MiG fighters owing to the construction of advanced indigenous aircraft carriers.

Published in Take-off magazine, November 2015.

(Photo: Nikolay Balabayev)

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