Only the first prototype of the Indian Navy’s new MiG-29s has flown, but the force’s preparations for the new aircraft are proceeding apace.
The Indian Navy has not operated conventional carrier -based aircraft since the withdrawal of the Hawker Sea Hawk in 1983, after which the STOVL BAE Systems Sea Harrier became the service’s only carrier-based fighter.
Captain GM Gopakumar of the Indian Navy told Flight Daily News that Indian Navy pilots are already flying exchange tours on Indian Air Force MiG-29s, and though delivery of the first INAS MiGs has been delayed from November 2007 until March or April 2008, pilot conversion training in Russia will commence in August.
Indian Navy pilots have also reportedly been undergoing carrier landing and take off training at NAS Pensacola, Florida.
Though the Indian Navy did not buy eight ex-British Royal Navy Sea Harrier FA.Mk 2s when they were retired in March 2006, the Navy has apparently acquired four aircraft for spares use, to help support and sustain India’s existing fleet of FRS.Mk 51s.
The latter are undergoing a major upgrade, with new ELTA radar, missiles and helmet mounted sights. This should allow the ageing Sea Harriers to serve on until 2020.