Ravi Sharma

BANGALORE: The Navy’s acquisition of the 45,000-tonne Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov may have run into serious cost and time overruns. But it has not come in the way of the type conversion training in Russia of Indian naval pilots who will fly the MiG-29K aircraft that are going to be part of the carrier once it gets commissioned into the Navy as INS Vikramaditya.

Speaking to The Hindu during the recent Aero India 2009, the Director-General of the Russian Aircraft Corporation (RAC) MiG, Mikhail Aslanovich Pogosyan said naval pilots were presently being given flight training, with the training in theory just completed.

The six-month intensive training for pilots from the Indian Navy started in October.

As part of its aircraft carrier plans, the Indian Navy in January 2004 ordered at a cost of $740 million 16 MiG-29Ks from Russia that included 12 single-seat MiG-29Ks and four tandem-seat MiG-29KUB operational conversion trainers.

The 16 aircraft are also being upgraded from purely medium multi-role combat fighters into dedicated, network-centric information warfare platforms that possess force-multiplier capabilities such as airborne early warning & control as well as offensive electronic jamming.

Mr. Pogosyan, who has recently been appointed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the overall head of nearly all of Russia’s defence manufacturing and designing industry, said four certified MiG-29Ks had already been transferred to the Indian project team in Russia.

“Indian pilots are already training to fly the MiG-29Ks from a shore-based facility. They have been doing even 15 sorties in a day during the winter. We expect the first four MiG-29Ks to arrive in India later this year, with the other 12 being delivered by 2010.” Mr. Pogosyan also disclosed that the MiG-29Ks meant for India would be certified by Russian pilots taking of from a Russian carrier. However there were no plans as of now for Indian pilots to train from a Russian carrier.

Once the trained pilots are back in India, the Navy hopes to continue their training by using the Shore-based Test Facility (SBTF) that has been constructed with Russian help at the naval airbase INS Hansa in Goa.