Why Did India Abandon MiG-29K Fightɛɾ And Switch To Western Fightɛɾs?
New Delhi has decided to completely withdraw the MiG-29K fighters from the carrier in the coming years. India is planning to replace them with Rafale-M and later TEDBF fighters.
The long fate of the MiG-29K was once again mentioned when Indian navy refused to deploy MiG-29K on INS Vikrant aircraft carrier and intent to switch French Rafale-M fighter jet line or US F/A-18.
The MiG-29K (NATO designation: Fulcrum-D) is a carrier fighter jet developed by the Mikoyan design bureau in the late 1970s. Although it was initially expected to be a huge success, it ended up being one of the worst fighter.The MiG-29K aircraft carrier was developed by Mikoyan on the basis of the MiG-29M multi-role fighter. The manufacturer confidently said that this is a 4++ generation fighter, equivalent to Sukhoi’s Su-35S. The MiG-29K version is equipped with Zhuk-ME radar, which can detect air, sea and land targets from a distance of 120 km.
The aircraft uses an integrated steering wheel (HOTAS), which allows the pilot to operate the aircraft’s systems without taking his hands off the steering wheel. Control information is displayed on multifunction displays (MFDs), instead of mechanical clocks like the original MiG-29.
The MiG-29K is integrated with the RVV-AE air-to-air missile control channel, and a variety of anti-ship and anti-radar missiles. The aircraft can use a variety of high-precision guided weapons such as Kh-29 or KAB-500. MiG-29K is applied many technologies to reduce the detection ability of the enemy. The use of radar-absorbing paint makes the radar reflectivity of the MiG-29K 4 times lower than that of the original MiG-29 version. The RD-33MK engine is also improved, helping to limit the infrared exposure of the aircraft.
Since its inception, the MiG-29K has had to go through many ups and downs. Initially, the Soviet Navy did not choose MiG-29K but ordered Su-33 fighters to equip the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.
The main reason is that the Su-33 has a low take-off and landing speed, ensuring the safety of aircraft carrier operations, and at the same time, the flight range was also superior to the MiG-29K.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the MiG-29K project had to be suspended due to lack of funds. In 1991, India ordered 12 single-seat MiG-29Ks and 4 two-seat MiG-29KUB aircraft, at which point the project continued to revive. The process of delivering MiG-29K to India began in December 2009. Before handing over, the aircraft were tested on the Admiral Kuznetsov ship.
In January 2010, India and Russia signed an agreement to buy 29 more MiG-29Ks worth $1.2 billion. The Indian Navy started commissioning this aircraft in February 2010. All MiG-29Ks were stationed at INS Hansa base until India receives the delivery of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya from Russia.
However, the MiG-29K order was suspended after a MiG-29KUB crashed during testing. The Indian Ministry of Defense said that the accident cast a shadow on the reliability of this fighter. After many intense negotiations, by the end of 2012, the sea trials of the MiG-29K/KUB of the Indian Navy were completed.
In 2016, the CAG released a report on the project to buy MiG-29K fighters. In it, CAG criticized the aircraft for serious problems such as engines and avionics.
The operational efficiency of the Indian MiG-29K is in the range of 16-39%, which means that only 3 out of 10 aircraft are ready to operate, the rest are on the ground for maintenance. Therefore, recently they have flatly refused to buy more of this type of aircraft despite the offer of Russia.