MoD nod for MiG 29 K from Russia

The Gorshkov aircraft carrier may have been hit by delays and cost overruns, but India is going ahead with the procurement of additional MiG 29 K ship borne fighters from Russia to boost the Navy's aerial capabilities.

While 16 MiG 29 K/KUB were ordered as part of a $1.5 billion deal for the aircraft carrier signed in 2004, the Defence Ministry has given a go-ahead for the procurement of 29 additional fighters over the next few years to raise additional Naval fighter squadrons.

Ministry sources said the Defence Acquisition Committee (DAC) has given an in principle clearance to go ahead with the purchase of the additional fighters from Russia as a follow on order of the 2004 deal.

While price negotiations for the fighters have not started, the contract is expected to be worth close to $ 2 billion. Sources said the Navy is planning to raise a total of three squadrons of MiG 29 K ship borne fighters. A follow on order to take the total number of fighters to around 50 is expected in the future.

The matter will also be discussed when Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov visits India on September 28 for a meeting of the Russian-Indian Intergovernmental Comm-ission for Military-Technical Cooperation.

The fate of the Gorshkov aircraft carrier, which was scheduled to arrive in India this year, still hangs in balance as the Russian Sevmash shipyard is struggling to stick to the new deadline of 2011 for completing the refurbish. Russia is also pushing for at least $1.2 billion more to complete work.

However, the MiG 29 K fighters for the carrier have been manufactured on time and are set to arrive by next month. Naval sources said while the fighters are ready for a ferry flight to India, the actual induction may take time as the training modules for pilots in Russia have not yet been completed. "Weather permitting, the training will be completed on time and the fighters will be ferried to India by October-November," a source said.

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