Off the Deck
Naval aviation is on its way to becoming a potent naval air arm in the region

Indian Navy air power

The induction of three vitally important types (MiG-29K, P-8I and Hawk Mk-132) into Indian naval aviation this year marks a resurgence of Indian naval air power in the region. Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 303 ‘Black Panthers’ was commissioned as the first MiG 29K squadron of the Indian Navy (IN) at INS Hansa in Goa in May this year (with 12 MiG-29K single seaters and four MiG-29KUB twin seaters). The same month saw the Indian Navy’s first Boeing P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft arriving at NAS Rajali, at Arakkonam (in Tamil Nadu).

Last month, the IN inducted its first Hawk Mk-132 Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT) at NAS Dega. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has already delivered the first four jet trainers to the IN. The remaining 13 aircraft will be delivered over the next few years, completing the 17 aircraft order. The MiG-29 K/KUB and Boeing P-8I will enable the IN to provide credible and timely deterrence against its adversaries over the seas, while the induction of the first batch of BAE Hawk Mk-132 AJT will provide a state-of-the-art training environment for pilots transitioning to the MiG-29 Ks and much later the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) navy fighter.

The MiG-29 K (single seat fighter) and MiG-29 KUB (twin seat fighter) multirole carrier borne fighter will provide the IN with a fighter that can strike both land and air targets and be used for long-range fleet air defence. Importantly, they will be able to commit to a much larger radius of action compared to the Sea Harriers, along with a substantially higher weapon load that can be delivered with much higher accuracy. Another fact that must be noted is the one can expect far more numbers of the MiG-29K to remain in service three decades from now, when compared to the notoriously difficult-to-fly Sea Harrier (which has suffered high attrition).

All 29 MiG-29 Ks on order (worth USD 1.5 billion) will be delivered by 2015 and currently 21 fighters have been delivered to the IN, the type having flown more than 2,500 hours since the first aircraft was inducted in February this year. The IN is the first user of the MiG-29 K; the Russian Navy has just become the second operator, taking delivery of its first four MiG-29K/KUB jets (two single-seat and two twin-seat) last month. Twenty MiG-29K and four MiG-29KUB fighters are to be delivered by 2015, and will be deployed on Russia’s sole aircraft carrier ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’.
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