Union Defence Minister A K Antony on Saturday will commission the Navy’s MiG-29 K Air Squadron, which will operate on board the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov that is to be handed over to the Navy in December.
Antony will also formally name the squadron as the Indian Naval Air Squadron 303, nicknamed the Black Panther, in the presence of Navy chief D K Joshi, officials said here on Friday.
And the Union Ministry of Defence (MoD) had signed a `2,500 crore deal in 2004 for the first batch of the 16 MiG-29K fighter jets along with Gorkshkov. This was followed up with another `5,500 crore order for 29 more MiG-29K fighters in March 2010.
Besides the 16 planes from the 2004 order, Russia has already delivered four of the 29 planes that were ordered in 2010, officials said.
The state-of-the-art multi-role combat fighter jet has an extended striking range of 3,000 km and is capable of firing air-to-air and air-to-sea missiles, which make it a potent maritime warfare machine, according to sources.
Though Gorskhkov, which commenced the final phase of its sea trials recently after a series of similar sea and flight trials late last year led to a boiler malfunction, is now scheduled for delivery by this year-end, five years behind the original schedule.
The Gorshkov’s delivery date, which was initially rescheduled to December 2012, could not be met as the Russian Sevmash shipyard took back the warship for repairing the boiler section, for which India has now agreed to pay `11,500 crore in March 2010 after almost a three-year haggling by the shipyard over the repair and refit costs.
Ahead of the Naval Air Squadron being deployed on Gorshkov, which has now been rechristened INS Vikramaditya, it will be based at INS Hansa Naval Airbase here, where the planes are currently being flown by Navy pilots for training and mastering its operations from the shore-based training facility that has come up at the Naval base.
The MiG-29Ks have been configured specially for Ski Jump Take Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) to operate on board the Vikramaditya.
The plane would also be used on board the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-I that is under construction at the Cochin Shipyard in a similar STOBAR configuration.
The MiG-29Ks will be the second type of Naval combat jets that the Navy will operate, apart from the ageing Sea Harrier jump jets that operate from the Navy’s lone aircraft carrier INS Viraat, which was commissioned in 1987.
Saturday’s function will also kick off the Naval Aviation’s diamond jubilee celebrations.