On a day the Navy inducted the first batch of four Russia-built MiG-29K fighters, Defence Minister A.K. Antony sent out a subtle message to Russia to cut down niggling delays in military supplies.
Russia had committed to deliver aircraft carrier Gorshkov (now INS Vikramaditya) with 16 embarked MiG-29K fighters by 2008. The carrier will arrive only by 2013 and the remaining 12 fighters by the year-end.
Antony said on Friday, “Despite the delays, I must compliment RAC MiG for providing us with this world-class aircraft… There have been delays and setbacks but the new inter-governmental agreement with Russia has ironed out many issues.” He said the strategic embrace with the US would not weaken ties with Moscow.
Vikramaditya’s delayed arrival has put the Navy in a spot. It will be forced to operate the maritime fighters from ashore for three years. Antony said, “The Navy will commence flying operations with these machines to their prescribed limits, train the crew, establish doctrines and be fully ready for operations, as soon as she (INS Vikramaditya) is commissioned.”
Antony said the government had firmed up plans to buy 29 more MiG-29K fighters worth $1.2 billion (Rs 5,400 crore). The navy will deploy some them on the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier but the warship is unlikely to join its fleet before 2014.
Captain Surendra Ahuja, Commanding Officer, INS Hansa, said, “The fighters will fly as much from the ground as they would have from a carrier.”
The Navy plans to deploy two carrier strike groups in the next few years to dominate the eastern and western flanks.
Antony said, “The navy’s capabilities will see a quantum jump with the induction of the MiG-29Ks and the future carriers.”
Aircraft carriers will provide India the flexibility to project maritime power thousands of miles away from its shores.
RAC MiG director Mikhail Pogosyan said his company had introduced measures to check delays. “But time overruns are sometimes unavaoidable in the case of complex military platforms,” he said.