The carrier version of the Russian MiG-29, the MiG-29K [VIDEO], made its first
flight recently, about fifteen years later than originally planned. India is
buying 30-40 of these for use on at least two aircraft carriers.
In the early
1990s, work began on creating a variant of the MiG-29 for carrier use. These
were to be used on the Kuznetsov class carriers. These were conceived of as
90,000 ton, nuclear powered ships, similar to American carriers (complete with
steam catapults). Instead, because of the cost, and the complexity of modern
(American style) carriers, the Russians were forced to scale back their goals,
and ended up with the 65,000 ton (full load) ships that lacked steam catapults,
and used a ski jump type flight deck instead. Nuclear power was dropped, but
the Kuznetsov class was still a formidable design. The thousand foot long
carrier ended up carryings a dozen navalized Su-27s (called Su-33s), 14 Ka-27PL
anti-submarine helicopters, two electronic warfare helicopters and two search
and rescue helicopters. The ship was designed to carry up to 36 Su-33s and
is larger than the MiG-29K, and both types of aircraft were to operate from the
three 65,000 ton Kuznetsovs. But when the Cold War ended, only the Kuznetsov
was near completion. The second ship in the class, the Varyag, was sold to
China. The smaller Gorshkov is being rebuilt and sold to India (who believed
the smaller MiG-29K was more suitable for this carrier.).
The 21 ton
MiG-29K modifications included arrestor gear and stronger landing gear for
carrier landings, folding wings and rust proofing to reduce corrosion from all
that salt water. Anti-radar paint is also used, to reduce the radar signature.
Fuel capacity was increased 50 percent and more modern electronics installed. A
more powerful engine is used, which enabled the aircraft to carry over five
tons of weapons (air-to-air and anti-ship missiles, smart bombs). The Indians will operate twelve MiG-29Ks on
their refurbished Russian carrier.