Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Four MiG-29 fighter jets to join Indian navy in October



The first four Russian-made MiG-29K/KUB fighter jets, purchased by India for the modernized Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, will be delivered to the Indian navy in October, an Indian defense source said.

Russia and India signed a contract on January 20, 2004, stipulating the supply of 12 single-seat MiG-29Ks and four two-seat MiG-29KUBs to India as part of a $1.5 billion deal to deliver the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, currently being retrofitted in Russia for the Indian navy.

"The aircraft are expected to arrive in mid-October. They will be assembled and tested in flight. After that they will be put in service [with the Indian navy]," the source said.The official said that as the Admiral Gorshkov is still being overhauled in Russia, the aircraft will be temporarily based on land.

The two MiG-29Ks and two MiG-29KUBs were officially transferred to India earlier this year. They were inspected by Indian technical experts and used in a five-month flight training course for the Indian pilots.Meanwhile, Russia and India are still negotiating a new deal on the completion of the Admiral Gorshkov overhaul.

Under the original 2004 contract between Russia's state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport and the Indian Navy, work on the aircraft carrier was to have been completed in 2008.However, Russia later claimed it had underestimated the scale and the cost of the modernization, and asked for an additional $1.2 billion, which New Delhi said was "exorbitant."

After long-running delays and disputes, India offered in February 2008 to raise the refit costs for the aircraft carrier, docked at the Sevmash shipyard in northern Russia for the past 12 years, by up to $600 million.

Russia said it was not satisfied with the proposed amount, and the issue of the additional funding remains unresolved.Talks on the additional funding agreement are currently underway. Russia has pledged to finish the Admiral Gorshkov's overhaul as soon as possible and deliver it to India in 2012 if the additional $1.2 bln funding is provided by New Delhi.

According to Russian media, India has no alternative but to allocate the required funds, despite recent objections from the government's accounting office, because the Indian Navy desperately needs to replace its INS Viraat, which, although currently operational, is now 50 years old.After modernization, the carrier will join the Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya, and is expected to be seaworthy for 30 years.

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