Black Panthers MiG-29K Induction
The Indian Navy goes Supersonic!
Fifty years after the Indian Navy got its first carrier based fighter aircraft,the Mig 29 K was finally inducted into the force heralding a quantum jump in the IN's force projection capabilities. This 4+ generation fighter is heralding new changes in the Indian Navy as well as reviving certain 'lost' arts. 'Tail-hooking' makes a come back with this sleek multi-role fighter which is as lethal as it is good-looking. With a specification list that includes BVR Missiles,Anti-Ship missiles,9 weapon stations,a Zhuk multi-mode radar,an OLS,multiple MFDs ,Fly by wire,a 'Topsight-E'Helmet-mounted sight, this Mig-29K is the core of the Navy's future striking power.
6 of these aircraft have been delivered so far out of which 4 have actually been accepted.Other aircraft will be coming in at peiodic intervals.
The operating unit for this aircraft is known as the Intensive Flying Trials Unit (IFTU)-Mig29K. Cdr Ajay Theophilus is the Officer in Charge. The IFTU will be commisioned as INAS 303'Black Panthers' in a few months and Cdr Theophilus' designation will change to that of Commanding Officer. Cdr Theophilus is a highly regarded Qualified Flying Instructor in the Sea Harrier force having 950+ hours on that aircraft and 2000+ hours overall. He finds the Mig-29 to be much easier to handle and much more capable than the Jump-Jet.He emphasised the fact that the Mig 29K is much simpler to fly compared to the SHAR. The Senior Pilot of the IFTU is Cdr Viplav Hota who is also a Test Pilot,having worked on the Jaguar DARIN project before. 10 pilots have qualified on the Mig 29 K in Russia including Wing Cdr Manish Nigde from the IAF who is on loan to the Navy because of his Fighter Combat Leader qualification.This is a first for the navy when a new squadron is being raised with a posted FCL. He is formulating the tactics and SOPs for the combat exploitation of the aircraft in association with the Naval fighter pilots.
4 more pilots have been posted to the IFTU and they are currently undergoing ground school.These youngsters are the first batch of pilots who had undergone training on the T-34s and T-45A with the US Navy in Florida.Other batches will follow shortly. The current pilots have averaged 40+ hours on the Mig-29 K in Russia under the supervision of MiG pilots Gennady and Mikhail who were also present for the induction ceremony.Mr.Gennady said it was a pleasure working with the Indian crew and found them very talented.
The flight evaluation of the Mig 29 K by the Indian Navy was done by then Commander Surendra Ahuja (now the present Commanding Officer,INS Hansa) in April 2002 in Russia. Cdr Ahuja became the first foreigner to be allowed to fly and evaluate a prototype in Russia.What made this feat unique was that Cdr Ahuja had no check ride in any MIg29K trainer as the only Mig 29K airframe was the protoype serialled 312. Incidentally,Cdr Ahuja later also flew the Goshawk with the US Navy and is the first Indian to 'trap' on a US Aircraft Carrier.Ironically,he 'trapped' on the USS Enterprise,which has an earlier place in the history of the Indian Navy. Post-evaluation, the Indian Navy chose this aircraft and the Government approved it's purchase. The IN has got the aircraft it wanted and is quite happy with it.
2 trainers and 4 single-seaters have been delivered in Goa.Both versions look very similar as in the single seater,the rear-cockpit section is replaced by fuel storage.Both airframes are supposed to carry the same weapons load as well.
The Mig-29K (K for Korabelnyy) and its KUB variant are termed as 4+ gen ftrs by the IN. In spite of the outward similarity to the airforce versions, the Mig -29K is a vastly different aircraft from the airforce versions of the Mig-29. At one time, the a/c was known as the Mig-33 but for various reasons, it was decided to stick to the Mig-29 designation. For one thing, it is a true multirole aircraft. Capable of air to air and air to ground missions.
Both the K and KUB have a standard canopy with a fuel tank taking the place of the rear cockpit for an internal fuel capacity of 4800kg viz 4300 kg for the twin seater. A powerful OLS system with air to ground targeting capability allows operations without radar emissions and the system has performed very well during trials.
The a/c has 9 hard points - 4 each on the wings and a centerline.station for VT/buddy refueling pod. The four inner hard points can be used for all weapons and fuel tanks while the outer ones are for air to air weapons and the ASPJ. Weapons include RVV-AE BVR missiles, R-73 missiles and Kh-35 Uran air to surface anti ship missiles besides the standard range of bombs and an internal GShSh 30mm cannon on the port side above the wing root..
The navigation suite includes a RLG INS with GPS and GLONASS updates, ILS, MLS and TACAN. Communications suite includes two V/UHF R/T sets, one H/F RT set and a datalink. The primary sensors are a Zhuk-ME pulsed Doppler radar that works in a-a, a-s, weather and terrain avoidance modes, a powerful OLS with a look down capability, the indigenous Tarang RWR and an Elta supplied ASPJ. The pilot has a Topsight HMS and target designation system. A quadruplex FBW system and autopilot allows carefree maneuvering with g’s, speed, AoA limited automatically. The airplane has an autopilot that is integrated with the mission computer and auto throttle system. The avionics are also NVG compatible. Twin RD-33MK engines with FADEC controls provide 5500kgf dry thrust and a max reheat thrust of 9000 kgf each providing adequate power. Crucially, they are smokeless engines. Unlike the air force versions which have an upper aux. air intake for ground operations, the naval version has a mesh type screen in the main air takes. Each engine has an aircraft accessory gearbox how ever, the engines do need to be started up to retract the deployed tail hook.
For carrier ops, the strengthened landing gear is optimised for carrier landings that are (unflared) at much higher rate of descent (6.5m/s). Greater over- the-nose vision helps pilots during recoveries. Arrested landings cannot exceed 4.5g retardation rates else pilots get injured. Capt Surendra Ahuja,(US Navy call sign ‘Daddy‘), once again became the first of the Indian Navy’s tail-hookers in the ‘new-mould’ by becoming the first to successfully ‘arrest’ aboard the USS Enterprise - which incidentally was leading a US Navy CVBG to lend support to beleaguered Pakistan during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. He also joined the elite club of the few naval aviators who have a double carrier qualification of V/STOL as well as the ‘tail-hooking’ type. He also completed the IUT (Flight Instructor) course of the US Navy on the Goshawk prior getting this qualification. This smoothened the way for the large number of younger Indian naval aviators who were to later qualify for tail-hook Carrier Qualification aboard US carriers.
Six months prior to receiving the carrier, 10 pilots will return to Russia to carry out more simulator training followed by shore based training at the Litka ski jump facility in the Ukraine. In the event of political issues between Russia and the Ukraine, the contract stipulates that the OEM must provide such a facility in Russia. Following this, flying training from the carrier itself will commence.
New infrastructure - three hangars, a simulator bldg, an admin bldg - is being constructed to accommodate the new aircraft and the squadron at INS Hansa. A 1255m long SBTF with two arrestor wires adjacent to the main runway is also being built at Hansa. While this facility is primarily for the naval LCA it is planned to operate the Mig-29K once the arresting engines have been modified to handle the much heavier MiG29K/KUB aircraft.. A ski jump will be built on a parallel taxiway. Scheduled for completion in Q1, 2012, this facility will be an additional training asset for the MIG-29K fighter community.
The induction of these fighters mark a quantum leap over existing assets and the naval chief remarked that the true capabilities of the aircraft will be exploited once they are integrated with the carrier. Being that these are early days, the IFTU and, subsequently, the 303 sqn will have its work cut out as it develops tactical exploitation doctrines before the full potential and capabilities of these fighters are realized. In the meantime, the Black Panthers will certainly play a key role in accelerating the transformational process that the Indian Navy is currently undergoing by operating as a fully capable shore based naval unit within a few years until the carriers begin to arrive.
This is a good time to join the Navy-with inductions across the surface fleet,the submarine arm and the air arm. The arrival of the Mig 29s is a harbinger of bigger things to come.The IN is now completing nearly 50 years of carrier borne fixed wing aviation.
And it announced this with a Supersonic boom over Goa.
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