MiG-29K sales might tip scales for Fulcrum

 - July 18, 2010, 5:17 AM

Recent orders for the Mikoyan MiG-29K may pave the way for further successes for the sea-going version of the “Fulcrum,” according to RSK MiG. A first batch of MiG-29Ks and KUB trainers for the Indian navy was followed by a second order this March for 29 aircraft. Meanwhile, the Russian navy has decided to buy 26 MiG-29K/KUBs to replace its Sukhoi Su-33s.

RSK MiG highlights the type’s low cost, about $40 million, compared to its Western rivals as its key selling point, while offering similar levels of capability. In India, the adoption of the MiG-29K by the navy may influence the air force in the selection of its land-based medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) fighter, for which the related MiG-35 is one of six competitors. The navy may also look for more aircraft should it extend its short-takeoff-but-arrested-recovery (STOBAR) aircraft carrier fleet beyond the current two vessels.

In the early 1990s, the initial MiG-29K version lost out to the Sukhoi Su-33 to provide the Russian navy with a carrier-borne fighter. But as the service looks to a new generation of STOBAR vessels, the MiG-29K has come back into favor, following successful trials aboard the current carrier Admiral Kuznetsov last fall.

Russian navy chief Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said the service will acquire three to six new carriers, the design of which should be finalized by the end of this year. This is very good news for MiG, which expects to provide the fighter force for all of them.

There is also significant interest among countries in Southeast Asia for the acquisition of affordable carrier capability, especially in the light of China’s carrier program. The low cost of the MiG-29K places it in a good position, should such ambitions crystallize into firm requirements.