The Indian Navy will Friday induct its first four Russian-built MiG-29K combat jets that will be deployed on the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, rechristened INS Vikramaditya, when it is commissioned into the fleet three years from now.
'The jets were recieved in knocked-down condition and were assembled here. Russian pilots initially flew them to check them out. They will be formally inducted on Friday,' an Indian Navy officer said.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony is expected to attend the induction ceremony.
The fighters will conduct shore-based sorties from the Dabolim Naval Air Station till the Vikramaditya arrives in 2012.
The jets were purchased by the Indian Navy as part of a $1.5 billion deal signed with Russia in January 2004 for the carrier. Of this, $740 million was meant for 16 MiG-29s and the balance for refitting the carrier. The Russians have now upped the price to between $2.2 billion and $2.9 billion and negotiations are currently under way on this.
Of the 16 jets, 12 will be single-seaters and four will be twin-seater trainers.
The navy has named its MiG-29K squadron the 'Black Panthers'.
The contract for the jets also provides for hardware for pilot training and aircraft maintenance, including flight simulators and interactive ground and sea-based training systems, as also a full mission simulator.
Some 16 Indian Navy pilots were sent to the US for deck-landing training, while qualified flying instructors (QFIs) were sent to Russia for conversion flying. The pilots will undergo conversion flying in Goa under the supervision of the QFIs.
The MiG-29s feature a fully digitised glass cockpit, improved engine protection against ingestion of foreign particles like birds, a multi-mode radar and increased range.
The MiG-29s will provide aerial cover to the carrier's battle group, acquire air superiority and destroy sea-borne and ground-based targets with guided high-precision weapons during the day and at night and in all weather conditions.
The combat jets, the first bought by the navy after the Sea Harriers, will also be capable of operating as a midair refueller.
In a bid to revamp its aviation capability, the Indian Navy will also be inking a contract to buy 29 more MiG-29Ks worth nearly $1.2 billion from Russia. A Russian team arrived here in January to finetune the contract terms.