INS Vikramaditya shows its mettle, US Commander says it was “chilling to see MiGs approaching”

MiGs, F/A 18s carried out practice runs for landing on each other’s mothership  

 Manu Pubby

In its first international appearance, India’s lone aircraft carrier showed its mettle, with the consensus being that the vessel displayed “impressive capability” and that it’s on-board MiG 29-Ks matched up to the US Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets during the joint exercises.

The largest Indian warship was inducted in late 2013, but had been restricted to training and exercises within the fleet until now. Initial teething problems with the MiG 29-K fleet had led to a slowed down the integration process but two exercises – Tropex earlier in the year and Malabar have now demonstrated that the ship is ready for action.

Significantly, both the MiGs and the Super Hornets carried out practice runs to land on each other’s aircraft carriers. While they did not actually land, the drills were carried out for possible cross-deck landings in the future.

By Indian accounts, the availability rate of the MiGs – a sore point for the Navy that has raised the issue with the Russian side several times – was satisfactory during the exercise and the fighters were able to carry out all complex missions.

“The Vikramaditya has undertaken a few exercises with fixed wing fighters from the Nimitz and I think they have done well. The MiGs did conventional strikes versus combat air patrol missions, they have done fly-pasts and have undertaken air defence exercises,” Rear Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, the Eastern Fleet Commander, told ThePrint.

 

Sources said that the MiGs – which were tasked with an air defence mission – showed a striking capability to intercept the F/A-18 Super Hornets that were simulating an air strike against a friendly aircraft carrier in one of the exercises.

For the US Navy, the sight of approaching MiGs was a chilling flashback to the Cold War and a sign of new security partnerships.

“I will admit that it was a little chilling to see MiG 29s approaching the USS Nimitz. When you think back to the Cold War, those were the most serious air threats…it was nice to know it was a friend and a partner flying them,” Rear Admiral Will Byrne, Commander of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, told ThePrint.

The senior officer added that mock dogfights were carried out between the two fighter jets as well, but this did not go to advanced levels.

“One of the things we did was two of our aircraft and two MiGs were coming towards each other for practice approaches, while maintaining a safe distance,” Admiral Byrne said.

Sources told ThePrint that preliminary discussions had been held to use the USS Nimitz for landing of the MiG 29-Ks to simulate a possible emergency scenario. However, while the MiGs made approaches to land, there was not enough time or information available to adjust the arrestor wires for the hook­-up.

The F/A­-18 Super Hornet is a contender for an order of 57 carrier-borne fighters for the Indian Navy. The American fighter will compete against the French Marine Rafale for the Indian order that is in the works.

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