Thursday, September 3, 2009

MiG-29K fighters ready, but no carriers

Vishnu Som

Brand, spanking new MiG-29K fighters for the Indian Navy are ready for delivery after years in development, except there's one major problem -- the aircraft carrier they were meant to be deployed on the Gorshkov, is no where near ready. As India and Russia continue negotiations for a final price on the Gorshkov, these jets will be based at Goa with no carrier to be deployed on.

The saga to fix a final price on the Gorshkov, a second hand carrier being refurbished for the Indian Navy, is now having a clear impact on the Navy's capabilities.These MiG-29s are not designed to be deployed on its existing carrier the Viraat -- a 50-year-old ship which simply must be retired in the next three years. At that stage neither the Gorshkov nor the indigenously built aircraft carrier, being constructed in Cochin, will be ready.

Four years after they signed a 1.6 billion dollar contract with India for the Gorshkov and its planes, the Russians went back on their word, saying, "We underestimated the work needed" and have since upped their demand to a whopping 3 billion dollars. For India, cancelling the deal is a no-win situation since we have already pumped in hundreds of millions of dollars into the deal. As India and Russia try and close out the Gorshkov deal there is every possibility that by 2012, for the first time in more than 50 years, the Indian Navy will be without an operational aircraft carrier.


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