Indian Navy Flight Ops Moving Forward

Turkish Weekly reports the following:

A MiG-29KUB two-seat naval fighter jet made the first touch-and-go landings last week on the Indian Navy aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, Sevmash shipyard said on Monday.

The ship is currently undergoing sea trials in the Barents Sea off the north coast of Russia.

The jet, piloted by navy test-pilots Col. Nikolai Diorditsa and Mikhail Belyaev, completed several approaches to the carrier and finally made a touch-and-go landing.

The Vikramaditya, formerly the Russian Navy’s Admiral Gorshkov, is to be handed over to India after the trials after a much-delayed refit.

The ship was extensively modified to undertake STOBAR (short takeoff but assisted recovery) operations with MiG-29K naval fighter aircraft, as well as receiving new air defense, communications and navigations systems.

Nice milestone, but let’s see how long it takes for them to fly a nine-cycle, 24-sorties-per-cycle kind of day — just another day for a Nimitz class carrier at sea.  Of course it’s perhaps a bit unfair to compare a STOBAR (rhymes with FUBAR — coincidence?) carrier with one with catapults; the point is the capability of the American Navy is hard fought and should be preserved as defense budgets get scrutinized like never before in the coming months.  Try flying an 800-mile airstrike with an organic package using a boat like the former Admiral Gorshkov.

Of course, India doesn’t necessarily care about the American Navy.  Whatdaya got, Pakistan?

  • HurS

    It’s not comparably to a Nimitz class carrier, so why even compare it to one? Not very impressive analysis, Defense Tech.

    • Ward

      How can you say one fixed-wing carrier isn’t comparable to another? Is a MiG-29 not comparable to an F/A-18?

      • Ben

        He’s talking about the launch systems of each carrier, not the aircraft they operate. It can make a difference.

        • Ward

          How? What difference are you talking about? I’m talking about the ability to get airplanes airborne. What does it matter if it’s an angled ramp or a steam catapult? End speed is end speed.

          • blight_

            Don’t CATOBAR aircraft have greater takeoff weights than those that have to use skijump? Then again, CATOBAR aircraft have to be built for the stresses of takeoff and landing, which adds additional weight…


          • Ward

            I’d be interested to know how those differences, if there are any, play out in terms of airborne performance. Are you saying STOBAR airplanes are lighter and less beefy, therefore would have an inherent advantage in the air-to-air arena?

            And it seems like the stresses of landing would be the same for both, maybe even worse for STOBAR — depends on glide slope and VSI, of course.

          • blight_

            The JSF gives us a CATOBAR vs STOVL comparison with a largely common airframe, giving a glimpse into the design tradeoffs that come with going with one or the other. No similar datapoint exists for CATOBAR vs STOBAR to my knowledge.

            It seems nations tend to opt for one or the other. For instance, America uses CATOBAR naval aviation exclusively, and the Russians control the STOBAR market. Comparing an arbitrary STOBAR and an arbitrary CATOBAR isn’t particularly rigorous.

            Edit: In the STOBAR arena you get the MiG-29K and the Su-33. I’m not sure if there are other contemporary examples in the west; or parallel examples in Russian design of CATOBAR and STOBAR?

          • Arm Inc

            Ward - your a goose mate. What he is trying to say is your not comparing apples with apples. Are you honestly trying to say….. Na I give up… Why do we bother trying to explain to you.

            Arm Inc

          • Ward

            Yeah, good point. What do I know about carrier ops?

          • HeavyArrow

            CATOBAR have higher weights, but yet they can carry more on take off thanks to the catapult systems.
            With the Ski jump, payload takes a massive hit. Because they have to have a rolling start to get airborne under their own power, instead of having an assisted launch.
            With catapults, aircraft can operate at higher weights, whereas the ski ump limits the weight, because you only have the length of the carrier deck to get airborne.

          • tiger

            Your right. The take off weight is different. On the Plus side the ski jump is less complex & uses less deck crew.

          • orly?

            I believe the catapaults also cut the time to get planes airborne in half compared to ski jumps.

  • Ben

    See, there’s a real problem with measuring a country’s military strength by carrier capabilities. If it were 20-30 years ago, I’d have no argument, but in the modern age carriers are essentially $10+ billion dollar floating targets. With the growing prevalence of guided missiles, submarines, and stealth aircraft around the world carriers are becoming significantly less survivable. They work great for 3rd world countries, but they’d likely be some of the first things to go in a real fight.

    • Michael

      Any suggestions on how to improve the survivability of a carrier? Hopefully it doesn’t mean a stealth aircraft carrier…we’d only afford 1 or 2…

      • Ben

        It’s hard to do when an enemy can spend roughly $9 Billion in weapons for the sole purpose of destroying your $10 Billion carrier and still come out on top.

        I’ll be honest, I don’t have any suggestions on how to make them survivable with current technology, but the sooner people start accepting the fact that carriers aren’t invincible, the sooner a solution can be found.

        • blight_

          I get the feeling that CVN’s are becoming like battleships of WW2, where their role has shifted towards land attack. Then again, everything still depends on ISR, just as it did in WW2. All it takes is a lucky spotting of the enemy with your scoutplane (and today, a UAV or a submarine or superior and extended radar pickets) for long-range strike capability.

          A sea-skimming missile could conceivably strike at long range targets from a greater range than a carrier. However, one has to put ISR assets close enough to the carrier to spot it and direct a missile to it, which isn’t likely. Additionally, nonstealthy aircraft are more likely to be spotted by enemy radar…unless they standoff and fire, you guessed it, missiles.

          So one way or another combat has shifted to /missiles/. The question is, does an American CBG spot the enemy from farther out, and send aircraft with missiles or fire anti-ship missiles from VLS tubes from far enough away to defeat an adversary who lacks carriers, but has plenty of missiles but not necessarily the systems to give these missiles eyes on the carrier?

          Edit: That said, in regards to missiles the types diverge. One type is the shorter ranged missile that is very fast. For instance, the Klubs have a range of 300km, which isn’t a whole lot. They are however, quite fast.

          Then there’s cruise missiles, like the Tomahawk anti-ship variant. Subsonic, but longer ranged. The short-range/high-speed type of missiles when launched from ships, are handicapped by range. Whereas aircraft can extend the launch range and disperse your launch platforms to confound counter-attack.

          So sure, Iran could get Klubs, Moskits and whatnot. And they would probably have the legs to strike at targets in the Persian Gulf, in certain places, where short range for high speed is not a bad tradeoff.

          For a relieving fleet coming from outside the Gulf, one can use strategic bombers from Diego against missile batteries. Or VLS tubes. The CVN is no longer the exclusive land strike platform it used to be, but replenishing a carrier at sea is certainly easier than sending a ship with empty VLS tubes back to port to reload. We never solved that problem…

          • tiger

            Your right in this sense. The CVN is made for the last war. The real threat may be Cyber, not Ships & planes.

          • blight_

            The threat from ships carrying VLS tubes isn’t going to disappear any time soon. I think that the carrier will no longer be the sole source of sustained strike capability against land targets. It will be a mix of ships delivering missiles (akin to the old days of surface warfare and gunfire support) plus aircraft.

            As for fighting enemy fleets (the role that made aircraft carriers famous in WW2), ISR will probably turn it into a missile exchange. There’s a reason the Soviets went for Bears with missiles and ships with Moskits/Shipwrecks: everybody knew that the next war would be settled with missiles, just as the gun was superseded by the aircraft for long-range delivery of explosives.

            Edit: A Hornet has a published combat radius of ~722km. It can launch a Harpoon with a range of an additional ~120 km.

            Your Moskit has a given range of ~120km. Klub may do out to 300km.

            You need cruise missiles to outrange aircraft+missile combos. Or something like Brahmos, which has range and speed.

        • J.E. McKellar

          Carriers were hardly invincible during WW2, but they were still really important. Especially in an age of missiles, an aircraft carrier with fighter aircraft and AWACS is the only way to project power within range of enemy aircraft and cruise missiles. When it comes to securing the Indian ocean, from the east coast of Africa to the straits of Malacca, how else can you do it?

          • blight_

            If you’re going to secure sea lanes, you can probably do it with UAVs, submarines and something that can fire enough anti-ship missiles downrange to pose a serious threat to an enemy.

            Aircraft can do multiple sorties, but chances are if you’re sortieing more than once against an enemy fleet, you are either finishing the job or you have failed. You roll out once, fire your Exocets and destroy your targets. If you return again, you lose the advantage of surprise and will probably lose all your aircraft.

            If the Argies had the ISR to guide in cruise missiles from land or the Falklands, they probably could have defied the British even longer. As it was, sans long-range missiles they used aircraft, either with bombs or with missiles and did alright.

      • bmart.

        And it would likely end up having the same fate as the Sea Shadow, never put into service, and eventually sold as scrap. Bummer.

    • Ben

      Don’t believe me? The Millennium Challenge 2002 was a perfect illustration of this:…

      Haven’t heard of it? Yeah, well if I were the Navy I wouldn’t be too giddy to publicize it, either. It’s not a fun thing to admit.

      • blight_

        It was definitely embarassing, and it pointed to the fact that the Navy didn’t put much thought into operating in an environment full of dhows and small boats.

        It’s been ten years. The better question is has the Navy learned anything?

        I’d say yes. Recently a small Indian fishing boat got too close to an USNS vessel and got shredded. So yeah, I think the suicide boat thing was taken to heart…

        • tiger

          The USN has always been slow to deal with non Blue water missions Or design stuff smaller than a DD. A crappy history all the way back to the Gunboats in China days. The PHM’s would be nice to have in the Gulf today. Big ships in tight waters is always trouble.

      • PaulAllen

        “Haven’t heard of it?”

        Oh, I’ve heard of it. Every message board hack likes to pull that one out of their ass to proclaim the US is doomed, DOOMED, if they decide to attack Iran, or to proclaim carriers dead, in your case.

    • Pappa51

      Gee the Indian Navy is not up to a good fight with the likes of the US Navy. The US is technically so far ahead that’s all that matters!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well I remember North Vietnam MiG 17’s knocking down Mighty F-4 Phantom’s because the F-4 didn’t have a GUN. I am not saying that we are going to go to war with India. We need all those tell-a-marketers right.. . . Sorry for that, I didn’t mean any disrespect. Just a laugh line. . . Look never underestimate an opponent. The Indians are learning fast; so is Pakistan, and China as well. If we keep trying to make the other guys think like us, we are going to get our butts whooped.

      • blight_

        Asides from the Phantom and Intruder, didn’t Crusaders, Corsairs and Skyhawks carry guns? (Granted the Skyhawk and Crusader had Mk 12s and not the M61…)

  • Marcellus Hambrick

    The naval threat to India is China, not Pakistan. They need competent escorts as some of the defensive systems have been stripped from this ship during its refit.

  • EJ257

    This is meant to be a check against China. It’s funny, both this and the Shi Lang used to be ships in the same navy and now they’re facing off against each other on opposite sides.

    • blight_

      If the PRC wanted to check India, they’d likely invest in strategic bombers, fly over the mountains and bomb India.

      Going south out of regional waters into an area you don’t have bases in just to strike India seems a little crazy. Of course, it will happen if China wants to become a blue-water navy.

      • ForrestCantrell

        One of China’s essential Sea Lines of Communication is through the Indian Ocean to the Middle East. They must have the means to protect their tankers and merchant trade. This is one of the key reasons for the Shi Lang and China’s naval buildup. India, one of China’s core competitors, is perfectly placed to cut China’s SLOC to the oil fields.

        • blight_

          Chances are in wartime they won’t have access to the Middle East to begin with. We have them in our pockets for the time being?

        • tiger

          In fact the Chinese are now getting in on the anti Pirate ops in the Indian Ocean.

          Chinese navy escort ships complete first joint escort operation

          (Source: Xinhua) 2012-07-22

            GULF OF ADEN, July 21 (Xinhua) — The Chinese navy’s 11th and 12th escort groups accomplished their first joint escort operation here Friday.

            The groups escorted six merchant ships from China, Singapore, Norway, South Korea and Portugal.

            The two fleets held a handover ceremony on the destroyer “Qingdao” before the joint escort operation. The farewell ceremony of the 11th group will be held on July 23. Then the flotilla will leave the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters and embark on a goodwill visit.

            The 11th group has escorted 184 ships in 43 operations since it started the mission on Feb. 27. A total of 126 pirate vessels in 58 incidents were successfully driven away by the fleet.

            To date, the Chinese navy fleets have escorted 4,727 ships from countries all over the world.

          • blight_


            We’ll know when the Chinese are back in the world-contending navy game the old fashioned way: a circumnavigation.

            Doing ops in the Indian Ocean is pretty impressive: they are moving along at a steady clip.

  • Lance

    India has surpassed China in the carrier game. They both have Flat Tops but India has air wings for them China doesn’t have any fixed wing planes for its carriers. Overall the MiG-29K is better for foreign carriers Russia dumped the Su-33 due to its hard to handle size and they have maintenance problems. The MiG-29 is compatible with the F-18 in multirole mission good for India. Russia following site Good to see a new job for the MiG.

    • blight_

      India has also had a carrier for a longer period of time. Granted, it was an older WW2-era carrier, but experience with a starter carrier counts in the short term.

      • bmart.

        Exactly, India is starting out 10 steps ahead of China. Learning carrier ops doesn’t come in Hooked On Phonics…I’ve checked.

        • tiger

          LOL :-)

    • Howie

      Sooo untrue. The Su-33 has allready seen its last overhaul, and its flying life hour are slowly but certain coming to an end. The Mig-29 are cheaper to maintain and operate, the K version was also a gesture to Mig RAC somewhat slow economic growt. The Deck fotprint of the Su-33 are in fact surprisely small.

      • blight_

        The -33 also had a terminated build, and as Americans have bitter experience with, once you terminate a production line, it often doesn’t make sense to reactivate it when you have alternatives in the pipeline.

        That said, the Indians are getting Gorshkov which is built on a Kiev hull, like Kiev and Minsk which the PRC has but never messed with. Their Varyag was the newest class, equivalent to the Kusnetsov still in service with the Russian fleet; but since it was largely incomplete when left in ordinary, it is more blank-slate than what the Indian Navy is getting: a teardown and rebuild of a Kiev.

  • tmb2

    Why is the author giving India a hard time? There are only a handful of nations that possess carriers to begin with and getting into the game isn’t easy, cheap, or quick. Congratulations to the Indian Navy for hitting another benchmark in their pursuit of this capability.

    • blight_

      India already has carriers, but they’re old WW2-era carriers of the Royal Navy. The Gorshkov will be their most modern vessel, and they’re pulling out all the stops with a buy of new combat aircraft: Mig-29K’s, to replace the harriers that went with their legacy flat-tops.

      • tmb2

        I stand corrected. Still, good for them for getting their new toys to work well together. My criticism of DT on this piece still stands though. It reads as juvenile **** measuring. Meanwhile there’s an article on Buzz about how the LCSs may never be able to live up to their powerpoint expectations.

        • blight_


          I miss Noah. ;(

          Edit: And in other news, India picks the Apache.

          • tiger

            The Ark guy? Having spent a week end cleaning a horse stable, That ride must not have been fun with all those animals. Damn, I need a steady gig…

          • blight_

            Schachtman, who did DT back in the day.

  • Hunter76

    There are 2 separate areas where STOVLs have advantages that can outweigh their costs:

    1) marine (small m). Out on the ocean there aren’t many airports. It’s nice to able to land on a ship. And ships can always run full speed into the wind, increasing your chances of getting off again.

    2) “Honey, Sorry, I’m not coming home again.” If your air force is investing heavily in STOVLs; it’s saying it’s not certain the aircraft will have an airport to come back to. Let it land anywhere, get supplies to it, and let it take off from a weak field.

    • tiger

      Plus with UAV’s comming to sea, a big deck is not needed anymore. At least Stovl & VOTL is easier than the days of seaplanes on ships.

      • blight_

        For now, UAVs tend to be smaller and carry less payload than their manned counterparts. It may change in the near future.

        Wondering when they’ll go with carrier-controlled UAVs instead of Creech-controlled naval UAV.

        • tiger

          Hmmmmm? Deleted?
          I was saying that in the future something like that movie “Stealth” UAV the Tin Man could come to pass in my lifetime. The Firescout is a example of a ship based unit now. As for fixed wing operations, With friendly airstrips becoming rare. Such a CVN or LHA based UAV make sense. Have they even tested a Preadator or Global HAwk from a ship?

          • Praetorian

            Tiger, Looked to see if any UAV’s have been tested could not find any, but i did find this :


  • So?

    For those who tldr;

    American Penis - BIG
    indian penis - small

    • blight_

      Have you been measuring?

      • So?

        Not me, defensetech.

        • blight_

          True. My eyes glazed over protectively after the quote.

          I was better served reading the primary source. Even though the Turkish Weekly article was quoted in its entirety.

          Surprised the article didn’t even bother to note that both vessels are Kievs and are essentially receiving the same mods: stripping off weapons systems and converting to full flats.

  • So?

    What the hell does it have to do with Pakistan? Pakistan is to India what North Korea is to South Korea. A big PITA, but nothing more. They have bigger fish to fry.

    • blight_

      You stop being /just/ a PITA when you detonate a nuclear weapon.

      • So?

        Yeah, just like North Korea they detonated a bunch of fizzles. Their arsenal has a huge question mark hanging over it.

        • blight_

          The yield on the Pak weapon was reliably estimated from the test detonation’s seismic profile. Same with the DPRK’s weapon.

          • So?

            The seismic profile reported is much smaller than what the Pakis claim. Unle

          • blight_

            Mm. Looking into it.

            Looks like Chagai-II was pretty egregious, at least according to BAS:

            I thought Chagai-I was somewhat more powerful as measured, but that Chagai-II was their “practical” weapon.

            2kt plus or minus is sufficient to put on the hurt.

  • BlackOwl18E

    It almost seems like India and China are racing to get a carrier in their navies and right now India is winning, mostly because they paid the Russians to make it and provide the training.

    • blight_

      India had a carrier first. I wonder if the Indians were able to leverage anything from demobilized commonwealth forces. For instance, post-independence many British officers stayed on in overseas posts (for instance, Glubb Pasha in Jordan and other British officers in the Arab Legion).

      That said, they commissioned their first carrier in ’61. That gives them 40 years with their starter carrier…

    • NICO_IN_AZ

      I think that the fact that India already has years of experience operating carriers shows compared to China. Not only the fact that they are already seem to be flying off the carrier but even in general TASK Force operations with a fleet, I am going to say that India should have a distinct advantage.

  • Stratege

    Vikramaditya is not Gorshkov anymore. The ship has been highly redesigned

  • the_

    not surprising is the fact that nobody has yet made a single comment about the extreme poverty that most of the indian people suffer everyday and how many thousands the money the indian government spent on that huge-pointless-moneydraining bathtub would help. but then again, poor people don’t matter anyway, they just supply cannon-fodder for highly educated “generals” playground…

    • tiger

      We in the USA are not doing that great either. I have been near broke for months. Just happy to have to lights on still.

      • Chris

        no kidding!

    • blight_

      Hey, welcome to every country on the planet.

      • tiger

        Well at least Greece & Spain & a few others on the brink.

    • The Proud Indian

      Yep…. there are many people in India who live in extreme poverty. Wish we had a magic wand which could eliminate this problem for us in a sec.
      By d way any guesses how much time does it take to remove poverty ??
      It seems even supposedly developed nations like EU, USA are still grappling with this plague. To sum it up in statistics, nearly 16% of EU population roughly 76 million people are at risk of poverty. (check for countries like Lithuania, Poland, Greece, Portugal as per 2005 census).
      The point is, India in only 50 years of its independence from Colonial rule have been attacked 5 times (1947, 1962, 1965, 1971, 1999). The offenders did not give it a thought that OK these guys are poor, let them breathe. They still attacked us.
      So what’s your suggestion we do? Wait for another 50-100 years till we achieve a perfect figure of 0% poor in poverty index, then concentrate on security.

      By the way… our defence allocation is still meagre when compared with other countries. In our quest for credible minimum deterrence we haven’t forgotten the poverty factor, and we are working on it.

      Till then…. India cheers for this achievement.

  • ScrewWars

    I’d rather be on the Chinese side than on the Indians. Knowing their people and witnessing/dealing with them I can tell you that they’re nothing but a bunch of flip flopping douches. Here’s to India and China duking it out in the future, and Russia getting destroyed in the middle.

  • ltfunk2

    Oh I get it the Indians are brown so we laugh at them.

  • Matt

    India has been operating carriers (similar to the British STOVL carriers) for decades. They flew Harriers off their carriers, again, like the British. This is a step up for the Indian Navy, not an entry-level move.

    Carriers are THE BEST platform for projecting power. Carriers being the capital ship in any Naval Task Force, they are heavily protected by escorts.

    As China has just ramped up tensions in the South China Sea, nearby countries are wise to get their navies working at peak efficiencies.

    • Hunter76

      Gee, didn’t they say the same about battleships before Pearl Harbor?

      • orly?

        What trumps a CVN in terms of conventional warfare then?

  • Riceball

    What was the purpose of these test flights? Considering that the flight(s) was done using Russian pilots what did the Indians get out of it? Was it just some sort of demo for the Indians or what?

    • blight_

      Sea trials means final refits to the ship are complete, and they want to demonstrate that it can do what was promised when the ink on the contract was still wet; and thus any future problems of reproducibility are from the Indians, and not because the product was flawed at the start.

    • blight_

      What will happen next is either a skeleton crew will take the ship to India and train Indian sailors, or Indian sailors will fly up and take over the ship, of course with a skeleton Russian crew still on hand.

      Wonder if the Indian Navy is up to taking a few ships up to escort their new carrier down…

    • Howie

      Its called Test Trials. Both the Carrier and those Mig-29K are pretty new. Indian Navy pilots or at least the first batch have recently finish their training in Russia. Is it not better to test all system with some test pilots, before the fighter jockeys have a go for it..

  • craj1031tx

    CATOBAR also rhymes with FUBAR…. although it does have an extra syllable, in your defense.

  • blight_

    The Vikramaditya is based on a Kiev (of which the Kiev and the Minsk went to the PRC) and the PRC carrier formerly known as Varyag was a Kuznetsov-class carrier. Though the Gorshkov was the newest Kiev and incorporated modifications, they’re not the same boat.

    The fact that the PRC declined to modify their Kievs in this fashion whereas the Indians are is rather strange.

    Any word on the Vikrant, which is supposed to be an indigenous-build carrier?

  • badbob

    Ben must work for NAVSEA or he’s a gamer…If the US navy’s centerpiece capital ship is such an anachronism, why do our adeveraries/competitors covet the capability?

    re- ” fly a nine-cycle, 24-sorties-per-cycle kind of day — just another day for a Nimitz class carrier at sea.”

    Bluewater no divert? Since when? Not with a Hornet only wing.