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Only 3 MiG-29Ks out of a fleet of 10 were normally available for operations in 2016 because of problems with engines and electronic control system

Taken on Jul. 16, 2017 the interesting photos in this post feature Indian Navy MiG-29K Fulcrum fighter jets flying over the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Bay of Bengal during Exercise Malabar 2017.

The Mikoyan MiG-29K (NATO reporting name: Fulcrum-D) is a Russian all-weather carrier-based multirole fighter developed by the Mikoyan design bureau and described as a 4++ generation aircraft by its manufacturer.

The MiG-29K was developed in the late 1980s from MiG-29M but since the Russian Navy preferred the Su-27K (later re-designated Su-33), the aircraft was not ordered into production and only two prototypes were originally built in the early 1990s. However the Mikoyan Design Bureau did not stop its work on the MiG-29K aircraft despite the lack of financing since 1992. The program got a boost in the late 1990s to meet an Indian requirement for a ship-borne fighter following the purchase of a former Soviet aircraft carrier (in the form of the INS Vikramaditya which was originally built as Baku and later renamed Admiral Gorshkov), and the MiG-29K was first received by the Indian Navy in 2009.

Noteworthy in 2016 Comptroller and Auditor General of India (the country authority which audits all receipts and expenditure of the Government of India and the state governments), issued a report criticising the fighters for problems with engines and electronic control systems which resulted in “serviceability” of the airplanes “varying between 16 per cent and 39 per cent” meaning that out of fleet 10 fighters only 3 were normally available for operations at given time.

Nevertheless,  the Russian Navy, with their Su-33s nearing the end of their service lives by 2010, has also ordered the MiG-29K as a replacement.

Malabar 2017 is a tri-lateral, two-phase exercise hosted by the Indian Navy and held in Chennai and the waters of the Bay of Bengal. The drill, which lasted from Jul. 10 to 17, consists of an ashore and at-sea phase that emphasize high-end warfighting skills, maritime superiority and power projection through subject-matter expert and professional talks on CSG operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, surface and antisubmarine warfare, medical operations, damage control, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), helicopter operations, and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations.

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group consists of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11 staff and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9. The deployed units from DESRON 9 include the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Howard (DDG 83), USS Shoup (DDG 86), USS Pinckney (DDG 91) and USS Kidd (DDG 100).

Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Colby S. Comery and Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston A. Mohr / U.S. Navy

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