28 Jun 2011 By VIVEK RAGHUVANSHI DefenseNews
NEW DELHI - Possible further Indian orders for Russian-made MiG-29K aircraft await the results of an investigation into a June 23 crash in Russia of a trainer version of the aircraft.
India ordered 16 MiG 29Ks for $650 million in 2004, intended to fly off the Russian-built aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, formerly called the Admiral Gorshokov.
A repeat order for $1.5 billion was placed in early 2010 for 29 additional MiG-29Ks.
On June 23, an MiG-29K trainer version of the aircraft crashed in south Russia, killing its two-member crew. Russia grounded the entire MiG-29 fleet till the probe is over, a senior official in the Indian Defence Ministry said.
Defence Ministry sources said additional MiG-29K orders are not assured as the crash has cast a shadow on the credibility of the aircraft itself.
An Indian Navy official said the five MiG 29Ks India has received from Russia may also be grounded.
The Indian Navy plans to use the MiG-29K aircraft for its aircraft carriers, one of which is afloat while the remaining two are in the final stages of construction. Vikramaditya is undergoing refit in Russia, and the homemade Air Defence Ship is under construction at the Kochi shipyard.
In addition, the Navy has long-term plans to build three more carriers, sources said.
The MiG-29Ks were purchased as part of the contract to refit Vikramaditya, which is now expected to be inducted by early 2013, nearly five years behind scheduled. India and Russia haggled over price increases imposed by Moscow above the contracted amount of 2004. The Indian Navy agreed last year to pay about $2 billion more than the contracted amount.
A variant of the MiG-29 fighter aircraft, the MiG-35, was rejected by the Indian Air Force for the $10 billion Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft competition, along with the F-16 and F-18 of United States. The French Rafale and the Eurofighter were downselected.
Russia is also upgrading 65 MiG-29 aircraft for Indian under an $850 million contract signed in 2008.
Under the contract between India and the Russian Aircraft Corp. (RSK) MiG, the MiG-29 is to be upgraded from an aerial interceptor and air dominance aircraft to a fighter-bomber capable of striking mobile and stationary targets on the ground and at sea with high-precision weapons under all weather conditions.