LCA & MiG-29K fighters begin flight trials from aircraft carrier INS Vikrant | India News


NEW DELHI: India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant took a major step towards becoming fully operational when two fighters, the home-grown light combat aircraft (LCA) as well as the Russian-origin MiG-29K, landed on its sprawling deck for the first time on Monday.
With the naval LCA prototype landing first on the 45,000-tonne INS Vikrant, which was commissioned in September last year, the Navy said it was a “historic milestone” demonstrating the country’s capability to “design, develop, construct and operate an indigenous aircraft carrier with an indigenous fighter aircraft”.


The single-engine naval LCA, a technology demonstrator that cannot operate optimally from a carrier as per the Navy, is the precursor to the indigenous twin-engine deck-based fighter (TEDBF) that will take at least a decade to be ready.
INS Vikrant, the largest-ever warship to be built in India for about Rs 20,000 crore, in turn, will become fully combat-ready when the MiG-29Ks complete the crucial trials from her flight deck, comparable to two football fields with an angled ski-jump, by May-June.
“It was a basic landing and take-off of the fighters from INS Vikrant on Monday. The entire envelope of intricate fighter flight trials will take 3-4 months. Most of the helicopter trials and weapon firings are, however, complete,” an officer said.
India has been without an operational aircraft carrier for almost three years now. The older 44,500-tonne INS Vikramaditya, acquired from Russia at a cost of $2.33 billion over a decade ago, is still to become operational after a major refit-and-maintenance cycle.
The Navy is also hobbled by the lack of adequate numbers of fighters to operate from the two carriers. It’s left with 40 of the 45 MiG-29Ks inducted from Russia at a cost of $2 billion from 2009-2010 onwards, with their serviceability also posing a major problem.


As an “interim solution”, India is now looking to seal a mega multi-billion contract for 26 foreign fighters in a government-to-government deal. In this race, the maritime version of French fighter Rafale has emerged as the frontrunner over the American F/A-18 Super Hornet after trials, as was reported by TOI in December.
The long-standing operational need for a third aircraft carrier, however, is still a pipedream till now. The Navy is now finalizing the initial case for a “repeat order” of INS Vikrant instead of a more potent 65,000-tonne carrier due to budgetary constraints.
In sharp contrast, with already the world’s largest navy with 355 warships and submarines, China is now fast building its fourth aircraft carrier after `launching’ its third carrier, the over 80,000-tonne Fujian, in June last year.
Apart from helping Pakistan build a powerful navy and hunting for new logistical bases in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), China now deploys seven to eight warships, submarines and spy ships in the region on a permanent basis. So, it’s only a matter of time until China also begins to deploy carrier battle groups in the IOR.


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