Commanding Officer, Intensive Flying, Trial and Testing Unit (MiG-29K), Cdr A.D. Theophilus
‘By the middle of next year, we expect all the 16 MiG-29K to be here’
What are the capabilities of MiG-29K that you will be exploiting here?
We needed an aircraft that could perform air to air, air to sea (anti-ship) and to some extent, air-to-ground roles. MiG-29K has been designed to perform all these three roles and has given us the capability to perform in all the three dimensions. Moreover, as it is a bigger aircraft with the state of the art equipment, it gives us greater accuracy.
What were the navy’s requirements given to the Russians for the development of this aircraft?
We wanted a completely multi-role fighter that could operate from the aircraft carrier. It had to be big enough to travel far and small enough to fit on the carrier. Though it is bigger than MiG-29B that the IAF operates, it has folding wings, which gives it a snug fit on the carrier. They were giving us analog fly-by-wire, but we asked for digital-fly-by wire with a lot of automation. In this respect, they have lived up to what we asked for.
Will you be able to put western origin weapon system on this aircraft?
The trend in fighters worldwide is to make a common bus which is the supply of the aircraft, since everything is electronically triggered. Hence, if the supply is not common you cannot integrate various weapon systems that are onboard. For this reason, all over NATO you have a common Mil Bus that runs on the aircraft. The Russians have also created a similar Mil Bus on the aircraft this time. As far as western weapons systems are concerned, it is only a matter of integrating them if we need to.
What is the weapon load that MiG-29K can carry?
It has four stations on each wing. So, it depends on us, as to how many weapons we want to carry. If we want to carry extra fuel, we carry less weapons, depending upon the role.
How many fighters have you got already and how many more are expected in what time frame?
India has contracted for MiG-29K in two phases. The first contract was for 16 aircraft followed by another for 29. The delivery of the first phase has started and we have got six aircraft here. By the middle of next year, we expect all the 16 aircraft to be here.
What is the role of your unit?
This is an Intensive Flying, Trial and Testing Unit (IFTTU) whose job is to prove the aircraft, both fly-worthiness and role-worthiness. Once that is done, this unit will get commissioned as INAS 303. We are hoping that this should happen in the first quarter of the next year.
What infrastructure will eventually come up for this aircraft?
Three hangars are coming up, one of which is ready now. Then a simulator complex is getting ready apart from the administrative building. We are also building various store houses for spares, armaments and so on.
Where did the pilot training happen?
The Navy had initially sent pilots to Russia for training. Subsequently, more pilots are being trained in India. Their ground training is already over and now the flight training is going to commence soon.