Barely a week after Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar witnessed the ongoing theatre-level naval exercise TROPEX-15 on board the newly acquired INS Vikramaditya , reliable information suggests that the aircraft carrier’s operation is crippled, owing to issues with its integral fleet of MiG-29K fighter jets.
Nearly 30 of the RD-33MK engines powering the twin-engine MiG-29K aircraft attached to the ‘Black Panther’ squadron have packed up ever since aviation activities got under way from the deck of the refurbished Soviet-era carrier that was inducted into the Indian Navy in Russia in November, 2013.
“The Naval fighter carries out high-speed landing by hooking on to any of the arrester wires stretched across the flight deck. In case it fails to hook, it should take off all over again. If an engine fails during flight, the fighter is forced to do a single-engine landing. But its power to take off just in case the arrester wires are missed is suspect. Therefore, the carrier doesn’t operate too far away from the shores,” a source said.
In other words, Vikramaditya remains tethered to the region — forced to operate within a 200 nautical mile radius of Karwar with an airfield in the vicinity, said a naval veteran familiar with the development.
Training still on
A senior officer, however, said flying operations and training of Indian naval pilots from the deck of Vikramaditya were being done in a phased manner.
“The aircraft is just too good and has a very powerful engine. To allay the fears of pilots, we have asked Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG to prove single-engine landing of MiG-29 K on board the Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. This will happen in a fortnight,” the officer said.
As many as 21 of the 45 MiG 29K fighters ordered by the Navy have been delivered so far. Of these, some 13 have been accepted after trials.
The public sector aviation major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has proposed to put in place requisite infrastructure at its Koraput unit for carrying out maintenance and overhaul of the RD33 MK engines powering the MiG 29K aircraft.