The Indian Navy MiG-29K shipborne fighter fleet is getting closer to completion. Russian Aircraft Corporation said another four will be delivered before 2016 starts.
On 11 December 2015 two Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29K (NATO-reporting name “Fulcrum”) made their way to the Indian Navy, built by the Russian Aircraft Corporation. The aircraft form the main element of the combat air wing of the Indian Navy aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and from 2018 also of the new INS Vikrant.
India ordered a total of 45 MiG-29Ks, sixteen in a contract from 2004 followed by a second deal for 29 aircraft in 2010. The Russian Navy operates the type as well.
Indian MiG-29K squadrons
In the end the Indian Navy will form four squadrons with its Fulcrums: the first for the Vikramaditya, the second shore-based in Goa, the third shore-based at Dega (Vizag) and the fourth for the Vikrant. The shore-based units will rotate with the shipborne ones or may even be deployed together at sea.
INS Vikrant Carrier Air Wing
The INS Vikrant is the first aircraft carrier ever built in India. The gas turbine powered vessel is set to be able to operate 20 MiG-29Ks plus 15 indigenous HAL Tejas attack and close air support aircraft. The combat element of the carrier air wing will be supported by a pair of Kamov Ka-31 (“Helix”), two Westland Sea Kings and 2 HAL Dhruv utility helicopters.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) will not retire its Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29N/NUB (“Fulcrum”) fighter jet at the end of 2015. In stead, they will keep flying until possibly 2020 or longer and will receive upgrades to keep them up-to-date.
Commanding General Datuk Seri Roslan Saad said during the 57th anniversary ceremony of the RMAF at Kuantan on 1 June 2015 that the MiG-29s have still valid capabilities, but that adaptions might be necessary to keep it that way.
The decision is a bit of a disappointment for aircraft manufacturers like SAAB (Gripen), Lockheed Martin (F-16), Dassault (Rafale), Sukhoi (Su-30/Su-35) and Russian Aircraft Corporation (MiG-35) which were hoping to sell new jets. For now RAC might have the best cards, if the RMAF possibly decides to upgrade its 10 MiG-29N single-seat and two MiG-29NUB two-seat jets to the MiG-29SMT standard.
Malaysia operates the Fulcrums since the 1990s. Based at Sultan Ahmed Shah / Kuantan (Pahang) RMAF Base, the type forms the small 17 & 19 Squadron.
Russian company Fazotron-NIIR is improving the on board radar of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29K shipborne fighter jets of the Russian Navy and the new serial production MiG-35 aircraft, or Fulcrum respectively Fulcrum-F if we go by the NATO-reporting names for these types.
The modernization of the Zhuk-M radar focuses on improving software. “It will add new means to how the radar works with land and sea targets”, a statement of the state-owned Russian Aircraft Corporation (RAC) reads. The Indian Navy’s MiG-29K/KUBs are also to profit from the improvements, with their radars being designated Zhuk-ME – with the E for Export.
MiG-29s and MiG-35s equipped with the Zhuk-M(E) can track 20 air targets and attack four simultaneously from ranges of at least 65 nautical miles (120 km) in air-to-air mode, and up to 27 nm (50 km) for surface targets.
The Russian Air Force will operate two squadrons of the new Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-35 multi-role fighters comprising 30 aircraft by 2020, Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister Yuriy Borisov said during a recent visit to the Nizhegorodskiy Aircraft Manufacturering Plant “Sokol” in Nizhniy Novgorod.
While visiting the plant about 240 miles (380 km) east of Moscow Mr. Borisov inspected the MiG-29 facilities as well as the MiG-31 overhaul. The latter, a long-range interceptor called “Foxhound” by NATO, is “a critical machine” to the Russian military. “That’s why we’ll have more than 130 upgraded MiG-31BMs operational in the next decade,” according to the Deputy Defence Minister. The new number is interesting, because previously it was known that the Russian Air Force has only 122 Foxhounds still on strength, with the modernisation program sanctioned for only 110 of them. The 25th upgraded MiG-31BM is expected to rotate back into the active force any time soon, with the program aiming at a turn-around of 12 to 13 Foxhounds a year.
No word yet on the basing locations of the new MiG-35, but we at Airheadsfly.com assume the first two squadrons will be positioned within 150 miles range of Russia’s western borders. Moscow is expected to order at least a hundred of these aircraft that NATO reports as “Fulcrum-F”, but more recently 180 production aircraft have been named as well. Before the production order is given, the Russian military awaits flight testing of two prototypes of the new jet fighter. It is not sure whether the production delivery timeline of the first aircraft in 2016 will still be met.
The Fulcrum-F is a further developed version of the MiG-29 with a better active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, more powerful engines, a Optical Locator System and a better ability to engage multiple targets in the air and on sea / on the ground at the same time. The MiG-35 will be able to carry a higher weapons load at nine external stations, an increased fuel capacity, an in-flight refuelling system and a fly-by-wire system that has three-channels and quadruple redundancy.
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-31 long-range interceptor – NATO-reporting name “Foxhound” – will protect the Northern Sea Route from Russian airbases in the Arctics, the deputy commander of the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces (Voyska Vozdushno-Kosmicheskoy Oborony, or VKO) said on Saterday 7 April 2015 to Russian media and in a news release by the Russian Aircraft Corporation.
Whether the MiG-31s will be on temporarily rotation or permanently based on Arctic airfields, General Major Kirill Makarov didn’t say. “In the Arctic, we’ll place assets, such as the MiG-31, to detect enemy aircraft and fighter aircraft.”
Reconstruction at at least two Arctic airbases is underway. Tiksi Airbase in the far north reopens in 2017 as a MiG-31 (NATO-reporting name Foxhound) interceptor location. Relatively far off of everything the Russian Air Force seems eager to reposture itself to protect raw material, oil and gas reserves in the Arctics.
In August the Russian Ministry of Defence said it is also preparing the airfield of Temp on Kotelny Island – part of the New Siberian Islands – to be able to receive and service the large Ilyushin IL-76 airlifters in use in large numbers by the Air Force.