The Navy is all set to double its aviation fleet from the existing 200-odd planes to over 400 planes in the next decade, when it will have at least three combat air squadrons flying the newly-inducted Russian-origin MiG-29Ks.
“The number of Indian Navy’s aircraft will almost double in the next decade. The number of fighter squadrons, which is two at present, will increase to at least five. Two training squadrons will also come up and these will operate the Advanced Jet Trainers,” Navy’s Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Air) Rear Admiral D M Sudan said here.
The Naval Aviation wing is celebrating its Diamond Jubilee year in 2013. “In the last sixty years, it has emerged as a mini air force,” Sudan said, talking about the growth of the force he heads. Sudan is a Sea Harrier pilot and has commanded the squadron on board INS Viraat. At present, the Indian Navy’s aviation arm has 217 aircraft in its fleet, including Sea Harriers and MiG-29K combat jets, apart from several helicopters including the British SeaKings, Russian Kamov, indigenous Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters, and the Chetaks.
It also operates eight air stations and 19 squadrons, including the fixed wing fleet of Tu-142s long range maritime reconnaissance and Dornier surveillance planes. The naval aviation arm currently operates a squadron of ageing British Sea Harriers that fly from the lone aircraft INS Viraat and it will on May 11 commission its second combat squadron that will operate the Russian-origin MiG-29K planes. The MiG-29K is the combat air component of INS Vikramaditya, the erstwhile Admiral Gorskhov aircraft carrier of the Russian Navy that was bought by India in 2004. INS Vikramaditya is scheduled to join the Indian Navy service after its refit at the Russian Sevmash shipyard by December 2013, almost five years behind its original schedule of 2008 that was fixed for induction when the warship was bought.
The naval aviation arm has also placed an order for 17 new AJTs from the British plane manufacturer BAE Systems that will form part of the two training squadrons for combat pilots of the Indian Navy.
The Navy is also in the process of procuring 16 Multi Role Helicopters as a replacement for the ageing SeaKings, apart from 56 utility helicopters to replace the Chetaks.
To strengthen its long-range maritime reconnaissance fleet, the Navy will induct the US-built Boeing P-8I, eight of which will be inducted beginning this year.