Indian naval aviation has acquired new teeth with induction of nine MiG-29K carrier-borne fighter jets from Russia with an extended range of 3,000 kms and capable of firing air-to-air and air-to-sea missiles.
The Russian MiG Aircraft Corporation has delivered the second batch of five MiG-29K fighter jets to the navy, to add to its four, for which it has raised the new "Black Panthers" squadron.
India along with Russia, the manufacturer of the naval fighter, are the only countries to have acquired these fighters, which will be deployed on the INS Vikramaditya (former Gorshkov) aircraft carrier, under re-fit in Russia.
The newly acquired Russian carrier-operated MiGs are considered to be far superior to Indian Navy's current Sea Harrier jump jets.
Under the Gorshkov aircraft deal inked between the two countries in 2004, Russia is to supply 12 single-seater MiG-29K fighters and four two-seater MiG-29KUB trainer-cum-combat jets.
According to a MiG release first of four MiG-29Ks and MiG-29KUBs delivered to India have been formally inducted by the Indian Navy's "Black Panthers" squadron in February 2010.
MiG Corporation has also delivered flight simulator and other technical equipment to the Indian Navy.
In March 2010, Russia and India signed another USD 1.5 billion contract on the supplies of 29 additional MiG-29K Fulcrum-D carrier-based fighter jets and the deliveries are scheduled to commence next year, about the time Moscow is expected to deliver retrofitted Gorshkov aircraft carrier after serious delays.