The MiG-29K, the backbone of Indian carrier aviation, is “riddled with problems” due to defects in the airframes, engines and fly-by-wire systems.
A Comptroller and Auditor General report says the MiG-29K fleet – India ordered 45 fighters from Russia for $2 billion for INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant – is “riddled with problems” due to defects in the fighter airframes, RD-33 MK engines and fly-by-wire systems.
Consequently, the serviceability or operational availability of MiG-29Ks is pathetic – ranging from just 15.93 per cent to 37.63 per cent.
The newest carrier, INS Vikramaditya, has been designed as a STOBAR carrier capable of operating both conventional fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, with up to 34 aircraft capable of being accommodated.
The MiG-29K programme itself was revived in response to the decision of the Indian Navy to acquire the former Soviet Navy aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov in 2004.
One factor favouring the MiG-29K over the Su-33 in the Indian decision was the larger size of the Su-33, which further limited the number of aircraft on deck.
Modifications were made to the MiG-29K for Indian requirements, including the Zhuk-ME radar, RD-33MK engine, a combat payload up to 5,500 kg, 13 weapon stations, and updated 4-channel digital fly-by-wire flight control system. It is compatible with the full range of weapons carried by the MiG-29M and MiG-29SMT.