Vijainder K Thakur
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  • Photos - MiG-29 OVT at MAKS-2005
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    Russia to showcase super maneuverable MiG-29 OVT at MAKS 2005
    Posted by on Monday, August 15, 2005 (EST)
    It will be interesting to see what kind of an impression the MiG-29 OVT makes with IAF officials shopping for 126 MRCA fighters.

    Russia uses the MAKS Air show at Zhukovsky (near Moscow) to showcase its strides in military and civil aviation. In the recent past the breathtaking super maneuverable Su-27 has consistently stolen the limelight at air shows in Zhukovsky, and even elsewhere in the world. However, this year the multi-role thrust vectoring Su-27SKM will be in for some competition from the similarly vectored thrust super maneuverable MiG-29OVT.


    The Russians had tried to fit the MiG-29 with controlled thrust vector engines in 1999 without success. They recently resumed their effort and seem to have met with success. The MiG-29 OVT is currently undergoing flight trials and reportedly showing great promise.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of an impression the MiG-29 OVT makes with IAF officials. The MiG-29 is already the most agile fighter that the IAF is looking at in its quest for 126 MRCAs.

    The Baaz gets better

    Recent improvements in the range, weapon payload and radar capability of the aircraft, combined with the fact that the IAF has been operating this twin engine aircraft for the past two decades, and the Navy has recently ordered the MiG-29K/KUB variants, make the MiG-29 a very strong contender. The addition of super maneuverability may just tilt the balance in favor of the Russians.

    The two areas in which MiG-29 had looked less than outstanding during its two decades of operations with the IAF were range / payload combination and electronics.

    However, the addition of fuel tanks in the dorsal spine fairing and wing LERXs has increased total fuel capacity of the fighter by 50%. In addition, the aircraft can now carry more fuel in drop tanks and has air-to-air refueling capability, including buddy refueling.

    The flight and navigation system of the new MiG-29 variants is built on an open architecture principle around MIL-STD-1553B standard Databus. This allows a client to source avionics for the fighter jet from multiple countries. Take the example of MiG-29K/KUBs being supplied to the Indian Navy. The on-board computer, radar, IRST sensor, laser ranger, passive anti-radar missiles homing system, HUD and 3 (7 on MiG-29KUB) color LCD MFDs are of Russian origin.

    France provides the inertial navigation system with Sigma-95 satellite GPS module and Topsight helmet-mounted targeting system.

    Indian companies supply some radio communication equipment for MiG-29K.

    The Hornet still has the sting

    Were the Russians to offer the MiG-29 OVT instead of the MiG-29M/M2 they would surely eliminate the Lockheed F-16 from contention for the MRCA order. However, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet would still remain a strong contender with its stealth, AESA radar and range / weapon load capability.


    The one big problem with buying 126 Super Hornets will of course be their cost. At $60 million a piece we are talking an astounding $7.5 billion!

    Indeed it might make eminent sense for the IAF to invest in both the aircraft! Doing so will cut down costs, build on existing investments and diversify our sources. It will be one smart way of keeping both the Russians and the Americans on their toes.

    Copyright © Vijainder K Thakur. May not be reproduced with explicity written permission.


     

    Comments:

    Saada Pan ya meetha ?
    By stmafm on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 (EST)
    Do you think it is likely that the IAF will go in for 126 aircraft of the same type ? It might take a little while to deliver such a large number of planes... Of course, if we buy manufacturing rights, the picture changes completely. Is the country actively looking for this ?

    As you point out, we could make both parties happy by buying two variants. This is probably important at this geopolitical juncture, where India is just beginning to flex its economic and military might and is wooed by multiple powers.

    In terms of existing infrastructure, it might make sense to go in for the Mirage and the MIG. I read with great interest your comparisons of all the aircraft in contention for the contract, a few months ago.

    Mr. Thakur, will you be writing about the recent excercises our guys conducted with the French ?

    Thank You.

    Reply to this Comment
     

    Super Hornets would be the more logical choice.
    By vkthakur on Wednesday, August 17, 2005 (EST)
    Thanks for your comments.

    I think the electronics and stealth of the Super Hornet would make a better choice than the Mirage 2000 V. The US Navy intends to keep Super Hornets in service even after the induction of the F-35 JSF, which is an indication of their faith in this versatile twin engined attack fighter.

    Reply to this Comment
     

    rafale ?
    By stmafm on Tuesday, August 23, 2005 (EST)
    Mr. Thakur,
    If we were offered the RAFALE, which has not yet been a success for the French in terms of export potential (I don't even think it has been fully inducted into their AF or their Navy as yet) do you think we should go in for it ?
    Roughly comparing the two aircraft, the RAFALE is probably a newer design, but the F-18E/F has shown its mettle in combat.
    As an ideal scenario, assuming that we were offered both planes, and that we had the money to buy/license produce either (Oh if wishes were horses !) which one should we go in for ?

    Thank you.

    Reply to this Comment
     

    MiG29
    By NV on Wednesday, August 24, 2005 (EST)
    Re Baaz gets better: For the Naval MiG29K

    Indian companies will also supply the IFF, the Tarang RWR (Naval version being the Roshni, which can detect and classify upto 128 emitters, including LPI ones), the Core Avionics Computer (dual, for redundancy) and part of the cockpit instrumentation.
    The EW Self protection jammers will be Israeli- like the Elta 8222. Like the IAF, the IN Baaz may also carry DRDO's Tusker jammer or a derivative thereof.
    It can be inferred that these will "carry on" into the IAF's MiG-29s as well. They are already getting the Tarang.

    The key differences between the IN and IAF 29K's (designation apart, the IAF's OVT version will be named the MiG35 per MiG) would be the Thrust Vectoring Engines on the 35 and the radar. The 29K's have the Zhuk-M slotted array radar, and the MiG35 (29 OVT)will have the Bars-29 passive electronically scanned array, derived from the MKI's Bars radar.

    Ultimately, it can be expected that the IAF's datalink project currently underway, will find its way onto the selected aircraft as well.

    Reply to this Comment
     

    Rafale vs Super Hornet
    By vkthakur on Wednesday, August 24, 2005 (EST)
    stmafm,

    I think Super Hornets will be the better choice for the following reason.

    1. Its AN/APG-79 AESA radar, even the export version, is very capable. I am basing my comments on reports that I have read in AW&ST of its performance in US exercises. Confronted with cruise missile threats, now from both China and Pakistan, we need an aircraft that can effectively counter them.

    2. I am not sure about the RCS of a Rafale, but I am inclined to feel that the F/A-18E/F is the stealthier of the two. The reason why I emphasize this is because I think the IAF needs to focus on attack more than defense. It is our defensive mindset, more than anything else, that has invited adventurism from China once and Pakistan repeatedly.

    3. Last but perhaps most important, we need to engage more with the Americans because to them commerce, more than morals, dictates what is right or wrong. We are engaging the French well enough already, even though they are a relatively lesser significant power. The Daphne deal for example seems to be going ahead even though based on publicly available information the HDW offer looks more attractive.

    Reply to this Comment
     

    indeed
    By stmafm on Wednesday, August 24, 2005 (EST)
    Mr Thakur,
    Thank you for your comments. One reason that the Hornet seems to win out over the RAFALE is that the latter is still having teething problems, while the former has proven its worth for the USN. Always stick with what works !
    There are also the geopolitical implications... In this particular area it is tough (in my opinion) to see the correct path ahead. The recent pomp and show put out for the Hon'ble Prime Minister was nothing more than an attempt to appease the Indian fascination for etiquette and protocol. Still, India has done remarkably well in navigating its course after the Pokhran II (see Strobe Talbot's book).
    I see your point about the offensive/defensive mindset... But I would say that this is (un)fortunately a civilian/political problem rather than a military one. There is not a single democracy in the world which has not been beset by precisely these kinds of issues. One of the few advantages that our bellicose neighbors possess is that they are governed by military dictators and ruthless tyrants who care not a fig for the general welfare of their people. The precise balance between military aggressiveness and democratic pacifism is a fine line and we must learn to walk it well.
    With all the choices before us, it is truly a fascinating time in our nation's history. I would say that we are now truly at a tryst with destiny.

    Reply to this Comment
     

    MiG 29 OVT
    By chirag_8284 on Saturday, September 03, 2005 (EST)
    Well hornet is a good choice but i bet india can't afford it. even if we buy it. the cost of maintainence (in which we rank the last see MiG 21)
    will be very costly. as such IAF cannot even maintain a relatively simple to maintain MiG 21.
    Do you think IAF even if had that kind of money could maintain (forget avionics maintainence) the mechanical parts of it.

    Actually i think Now after PM's visit and joint declaration of civilian nuclear deal, india is in catch 22 situation. India cannot upset russia to please US. Imagine if russia gets mad and sells Sukoi's to Pakistan. (if not the MKI then MKK). or say cheaper MiG 29 or Its engine RD33 (for PAKs so called indegenious aircraft FC1). India cannot upset france which sold 4 Mirage 2000 (during indian Air cheif marshall A.Y TIPNIS tenure) to Pakistan!! to keep its cold war promise(atleast thats what they say). remember FRANCE and RUSSIA were the only major powers who supported INDIA during 1998 nuclear tests.

    Reply to this Comment
     

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