In another tragedy, involving a MiG-29K trainer aircraft crashed in the Arabian Sea on Thursday.
While the one pilot was rescued, the Indian Navy launched a massive search and rescue operation for the missing second pilot.
The Russian origin jet had taken off from aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and at about 1700 hours on November 26 and soon ditched at sea.
The Indian Navy immediately launched its search by air and surface units and has gone on to deploy nine warships, 14 aircraft, and several fast interceptor craft as part of the search and rescue operations.
The search and rescue team could locate the turbocharger, fuel tank, and some other parts of the MiG- 29 K fighter; however, the second pilot is still untraceable.
Apart from the Navy’s warships and aircraft, the coastal police are also on the lookout for the missing pilot, and the nearby fishing villages have also been informed about the incident.
A high-level inquiry has already been ordered to investigate the incident.
This is the third such accident involving the Mig-29K aircraft in the last one year.
- February 2020, a bird hit was the primary cause of the accident in Goa. Both the pilots had ejected safely.
- May 2020, another Indian Air Force MiG-29 crashed during a training mission in the Hoshiarpur district of Punjab.
- In November 2019, another MiG – 29K trainer aircraft had crashed outside Verna village in the South Goa district,
It is said that the crashed MiG-29K was not upgraded like the others in the fleet. The fighter jets have had a history of serviceability issues, which was pointed out in 2018; however, the then -Indian Navy Chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba, had said that all the problems about the serviceability of MiG-29K had been sorted out.
Until 2015, the serviceability of the MiG-29K was unsatisfactory (37.63%), according to a report in 2016 by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
But, in a collaboration between India and Russia, serviceability has enhanced to around 70%.
History of the induction of Mig- 29 and the problems encountered.
The first international customer of the MiG-29 was India. In the 1980s, the Indian Airforce had placed an order for more than 66 MiG-29s.
Indian MiG-29s played an indispensable and crucial part and were extensively used during the 1999 Kargil war in Kashmir by the Indian Air Force as a fighter escort for Mirage 2000s assaultive targets with laser-guided bombs.
In 2005 – 2006, the MiG-29’s good operational record prompted India to sign a deal with Russia to upgrade all of its MiG-29s for US$888 million.
The Indian Air Force expressed concern in March 2009 when 90 MiG-29s were grounded in Russia; the Indian Airforce, however, cleared all MiG-29s in its fleet in March 2009 after a thorough inspection.
The then defense minister A, K. Antony had disclosed in the parliament that the MiG-29 is structurally flawed in that – it has a tendency to develop cracks due to corrosion in the tail fin.
Although he also mentioned that repair and preventive measures are in place and that the Indian Airforce had not encountered any significant problems regarding this issue.
Russia shared this finding with India after the crash of a Russian Air Force MiG-29 in December 2008.
Even though Russia had grounded the fighter jets, India sent the first six of its 78 MiG- 29s to Russia for upgrades.
In January 2010, India and Russia signed a US$1.2 billion deal, according to which the Indian Navy would procure 29 additional MiG-29Ks, bringing the total number of MiG-29Ks on order to 45.
The MiG-29K entered service with the Indian Navy on February 19, 2010. Since the induction of MiG-29, a total of 21 accidents and losses have been listed.
And the recent crashes raise pressing questions on the safety and questions the procurements of these fighter jets for $991 million.
According to the defense experts, India may not buy more MiG-29k or even MiG-35 for the IAF. A better option for India is are Rafale fighter jets or F-18.
The MiG-29 is rated one of the world’s most prolific fighter jets due to its usage in both NATO and CIS Air Forces; however, this over 50-year-old aircraft is no match to the French Rafale or other western equals.
The Rafale has a more powerful multi-directional radar system that can detect 40 targets simultaneously in a range of more than 100 kilometers radar compared to the MiGs, which were conceived as a low – end, air- superiority fighter.
However, something needs to be said about the MiGs when the Turkish radars could not detect the approaching MiG-29 fighters in Sirte, and the fighter jets destroyed Turkish air defense systems.
With this achievement of the MiG, it raised a huge question if India should move towards advanced western jets or continue with Russian technology.
On November 29, INS Vikramaditya was part of the second phase of the Malabar exercise involving the navies of India, the US, Australia, and Japan.
The MIG-29K fleet onboard the aircraft carrier was also involved in the mega naval drill that took place from November 17 to 20.
The recent crashes raise an essential question as to the continued usage of the MiG- 29 in the Defence Forces.