Indian navy has the distinctive mark of being the only navy other than the US Navy to operate an operational two carrier group. Indian navy has to a vast experience in operating these floating airstrips which can take battle’s right to the door steps of the enemies. These massive vessels can launch aircraft from the middle of the ocean assisted by modern technologies thus giving a major boost to the operational range and also making long range attacks possible. The aircraft carriers play a major role in power projection. Indian navy currently operates two active CBG’s (Carrier Battle Group), INS Viraat and INS Vikramaditya.
Hawker Sea Hawk
The Sea Hawk were the mainstay fighter jets of INS Vikrant, developed by the Hawker aircraft co. These aircraft turned out to be a game changer in Indian naval operations. The Sea Hawk was highly reliable and sturdy war machines which could spell havoc over enemy territory. The Sea hawks scored nearly a dozen kills over Pakistani missile boats and Merchant navy ships during the East Pakistan liberation war, Indian navy did not even lose a single aircraft during the operation. The Sea hawks were very instrumental in setting up a naval blockade that effectively cut off any reinforcement to the forces fighting a losing battle in Eastern Pakistan against the Indian and Bangladeshi forces.
The Breguet Alize was an Anti-Submarine warfare aircraft. The Alize had provisions to accommodate homing torpedo or depth charges and the weapon stations on the wings could carry bombs, depth charges, missiles and rockets. Indian acquired 12 Alize as an ASW aircraft to operate off Vikrant. Alize was used by the Indian navy for reconnisance and patrol during the 1961 Liberation of Goa. Alize was operated as an ASW aircraft to detect and destroy Pakistan submarines during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Alize was also deployed in Operation Pawan where the aircraft undertook took sorties destroying LTTE positions and merchant navy ships.
The Sea harriers are the true STOVL aircraft which could perform short take off and vertical landing with ease. The harriers entered service in 1980 with the Royal navy and was inducted to the Indian navy in 1983. The Indian navy initially purchased six harriers which were deployed at Dabolim base and later on started operating off INS Viraat. The Indian navy placed an order for further ten harriers and acquired nearly 30 harriers. The aging Sea Hawker fleet of INS Vikrant was also replaced by the harriers.
The harriers are one of the most successful naval attack platforms which have been operated by the US navy, Royal navy and the Indian navy. Harriers are powered by a massive Rolls-Royce Pegasus turbofan engine which churns out about 96 kN of power enabling the aircraft to attain speeds of up to 1200 kmph. The aircraft has an operational range of 1000 km and can climb around 50000 ft/min thus proving its .
The primary weapon of the aircraft is the two 30mm ADEN cannon which can carry 130 rounds each. The aircraft can also carry state-of-the art weapons ranging from missiles, rockets and anti-shipping missiles. The aircraft has 4 under wing pylon stations and an under fuselage pylon and can carry about 3700 kg of payload. The harriers carried some of the most advanced weapon systems which was primarily formed by the British developed anti-ship Sea eagle missiles. The French Matra Magic missile took care of any aerial targets.
The Harriers are aging and with INS Viraat slated to be retired by early next year the aircraft will be mainly confined to shore based operations only.
With India choosing to acquire INS Vikramaditya with an STOBAR design, Russia put forward the MiG-29K and Sukhoi 33 as the primary aviation wing. India choose the MiG-29K considering the larger wingspan of SU-33. Developed by the Mikoyan, MiG-29K is a 4++ generation, all weather carrier based multi-role aircraft. A carrier based aircraft demanding an more reinforced under carrier and tail section, Mikoyan came up with the MiG29K which was developed specially for naval operations. The MiG 29K was equipped with a more powerful and efficient engine, the cockpit and the armament received significant changes.
MiG29K took to skies on 23 July 1988, piloted by Aubakirov and by landing on Admiral Kuznetsov it achieved its first carrier landing on 1 November 1989. An aircraft capable of handling AEW was also developed based on the MiG29K and was called the MiG-29KUB. This jet features two aircrew and was equipped with powerful radar and secured data-links. Flying in formation and connecting over the secured links these turbofan jet engine developed by the Klimov for powering light weight fighter jets. The engine can develop a maximum thrust of around 50N when run in dry mode and can produce a maximum output of around 80N when the afterburners are engaged. The engines are very efficient and can produce 7% more thrust than the engines powering the MiG29’s, the engine is controlled by an FADEC or Full Authority Digital Engine control. The FADEC is an electronic computer that basically consists of Electronic Engine controller (EEC), and will monitor the engine performance throughout the flight. If the engines performance is found to be non-satisfactory the system will immediately restore the engine controls to a preset mode.
A four channel fly-by-wire system controls the aircraft, one of the most advanced avionics package went aboard the aircraft. The aircraft is equipped with a passive anti-missile homing system, it is also provided with the Sigma-95 GPS receivers which efficiently guide the pilot to his designated targets. The targeting system of the aircraft received a major boost with the helmet-mounted targeting system being introduced. To counter interference with the systems by the enemies, the aircraft is equipped with state-of-the art ECM systems. The primary radar of the aircraft is the NIIR Phazotron developed, Zhuk-AE radars. These radars feature an active electronically scanned array. The radar features a 700mm antenna and 1016 T/R (Transmit/Receive) modules. The radar has an approximate detection range of 200 km, and can track about 60 targets at a time and can engage six targets simultaneously. The jet can also be equipped with infra-red search and track (IRST) system. This system helps in detecting and tracking objects by following the infrared radiation emitted from the objects.
MiG 29K is equipped with an array of weapon systems, being a multi-role aircraft the jet can carry a mix of air-air missiles and air-ground missiles. The very basic weapon system of the MiG 29K is the GSh-30-1 30mm cannon, mounted in the port wing root. Weighing just about 40 kg the gun can be easily mounted on the the uniqueness of the weapon system is its short recoil action. Firing up to 1800 rounds per minute the gun annihilate any hostile targets. The maximum effective range of the gun is around 800 m against aerial targets and varies between 1200-1800 m against ground targets. Equipped with laser range finding and targeting system, the rounds can be fired with pinpoint accuracy. The aircraft can carry laser-guided and electro-optical bombs for conducting air-ground attack missions. The jet can also be equipped with Kh-31P passive radar seeker missiles which can be used as anti-radiation missiles. The aircraft can also carry Kh-35 and Kh-31A anti-shipping missiles, causing havoc over enemy ships. It is crucial the jet also can engage aerial targets, the jet is equipped with air to air missiles. Various foreign developed missiles can also be integrated with the aircraft.
India has signed a $1.2 billion deal, with the Mikoyan for acquiring 40 MiG 29K, INS Vikramaditya will carry up to 24 fighters. INS Vikrant is expected to carry up to 30 fighters which will be a mix of the MiG 29K and the LCA naval version.With the Indian navy opting for the more powerful and efficient CATOBAR configuration the aviation wing of the navy is set for a major revamp. The first of the navy's CATOBAR carrier will be INS Vishal/IAC-II which is currently in the design phase and will be constructed by CSL, Cochin. The carrier will have complement of around 45 aircraft, the carrier for the first time will allow the operation of AWACS aircraft from its deck. The Rafale M,F-18 Super hornet and the fifth generation stealth enabled F-35 C will be the leading contenders for securing the tender to supply the carriers aviation wing.
Article - Karthik Kakoor