The MIG-29K is a carrier version of the plane designed by the Mikoyan design bureau. It is a short landing and takeoff aircraft with retractable wings for storage abroad carrier. The plane was in the news recently when it was operating from the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. The plane which took off for a sortie along with 2 others failed to land back and crashed into the sea.Out of the other 2, only one could land back on the carrier. The plane also equips the Indian carrier INS Vikramditiya but is dogged by operational problems. The news of the loss of the plane due to technical problems cannot be happy news for the Russian plan to match the US Navy.
The MIG-29K ::
The MIG 29K while on the drawing board promised a superb carrier-borne aircraft. The Indian navy also purchased the aircraft for its carrier the Vikramaditya and 40 planes operate from it. India paid $2.2 billion for the deal. The plane is lethal and has a speed of Mach 2.5 and has the ability to take off and land from a short space. Hence its ideal for carrier operations where space is limited. It can be stored with folded wings and helps create space in the hangers on board the carrier.
Admiral Arun Prakash erstwhile chief of the Indian navy who evaluated the aircraft in 1999 says ” there are only two fighters the MIG-29K and Sukhoi-33 in the world capable of operations from a short take-off but arrested recovery, a system used for launch and recovery from a short deck like the Vikramaditya. There is no better fighter available to replace the MIG-29K.”
The plane has been found wanting in operations on the carrier. Serviceability is low and the engines malfunction. This has been traced to poor quality control in Russia. There is also a problem with after sales support. The result is that the Indian carrier has a serviceability ranging from 21-47% . This is very low and affects the combat capability. The Russian carrier is also plagued by similar problems. and the fact that one MIG-29K was lost on the first day of operations in the Eastern Mediterranean.The Russian fleet and aero manufacturing complex will have to do better to match the American navy.