New Delhi: When Russia deployed its sole aircraft carrier, the Kuznetsov off the coast of Syria earlier this year, a newly-developed fighter jet onboard the ship had many Western powers operating in the region intrigued, if not concerned.
- Mock combat part of Malabar exercise between Japan, US and India
- Navy sources said the Indian MiGs performed well in the mission
- MiG-29K jet is considered among the most capable of its generation
The jet in question was the MiG-29K, a brand new Navalised variant of one of the most successful Russian fighters ever built, the MiG-29, a jet that's been in service with the Indian Air Force since the mid-eighties.
But the MiG-29K is a very different beast. Equipped with a host of new weapons and sensors, the jet is considered among the most capable of its generation, a fighter that could potentially threaten several contemporary Western fighters including newer variants of the F-15 or F-16.
As it turns out, Russia was not the first Navy to deploy the MiG-29K. That honour had come to the Indian Navy a few years ago. Along with the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, the Indian Navy had received the MiG-29K as part of a package deal. Which is why, the US would hardly give up any opportunity to exercise with the MiG-29K.
That opportunity came yesterday when Indian Navy MiG-29Ks engaged top of the line US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets in mock combat. As exercises go, these air-to-air engagements were fairly basic, with the Indian Navy reluctant to showcase the full range of capabilities of the MiG-29K. To that end, a lot of the exercises involved the MiGs lining up to land on the deck of the US Super carrier, the USS Nimitz though no landings actually took place since the MiG-29 is not designed to take off from the deck of the US carrier.
Yesterday, Indian Navy MiGs mounted combat air patrols (CAPs) defending a warship against US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets which simulated an anti-ship mission. Indian Navy sources have told NDTV that the Indian MiGs performed well in the mission. But the US Navy was clearly delighted as well. According to Rear Admiral William D. Byrne, Jr., the Commander of Carrier Strike Group 11 which operates around the USS Nimitz, "the MiG-29s that were flying off the Vikramaditya and the FA-18 Super Hornets flying off Nimitz made approaches to the opposite flight decks. They got up in the air and got to do some dog fighting as well."
Russia has not always been happy that India exposes its frontline platforms in exercises involving the United States but the US is a key ally of India and the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy gain immeasurably in training with the world's foremost military power. Typically though, all modern Air Forces do not reveal highly classified radar frequencies and operate using training frequencies to ensure that even among friends, there are some military secrets that always remain.