UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Indian Naval Air Arm

Naval Aviation is a vital arm of the Indian Navy for undertaking tasks such as maritime reconnaissance, fleet air defence, carrier borne strikes against maritime targets, ships and shore borne air anti-submarine warfare. search and rescue (SAR) etc. To undertake these tasks, a variety of aircraft and helicopters are employed by the Navy.

Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said in August 2008 that "By 2022, we plan to have 160-plus ship navy, including three aircraft carriers, 60 major combatants, including submarines and close to 400 aircraft of different types. This will be a formidable three dimensional force with satellite surveillance and networking to provide force multiplication." By one estimate by 2020 the Indian Navy aircraft inventory could be about 400 aircraft, including:

  • 30 ASW aircraft (Including long range, medium range, short range)
  • 50 ASW helicopters - (Sea King and Kamov)
  • 35 Transport aircraft
  • 120 Carrier-Based Aircraft - 3 Aircraft Carriers @ 40 A/C each [includes 1/2 of ASW helos]
  • 85 other aircraft [35 fixed wing trainers, 35 utility helicopters, and 15 other helicopters], and
  • 120 other aircraft not otherwise accounted for, possibly coastal defense fighters

India with a large coast line definitely needs a variety of weapons to face the sea based threats. Pakistan has a coast line of 1,050 km, 250 km falling in Sind province and 800 km in Balochistan. India has a coast line of total 7500 km. 5700 km on the mainland and 1800 km around Andaman & Nicobar islands and Lakshadweep islands. The aircraft carriers can not be used as defensive ships, since the basic idea of having a carrier is to provide air cover to the ships where the land base aircraft cannot, so the Navy can operate far away from home. For the defense of the coastline, land base aircraft can easily do the job.

The Indian Navy maintains a large inventory of Aircraft and Weapon systems procured from various countries across the world. Maintenance of this inventory involves replacement and repair of components modules, sub-assemblies and major assemblies. IN exploits these resources optimally, well beyond the conservative life stipulated by OEMs. It has been India's experience that the product support from OEMs invariably dries up well before this optimal exploitation by IN. Therefore, indigenisation has been the thrust area of Naval aviation for over two decades. Apart from self-reliance and reduced inventories through shorter supply chain, the process helps in absorption of the current technology by the indigenous industry and has long-term spin-offs for the Nation.

Carrier Aviation

As of 2008 the Rs 476-crore upgrade of the remaining 10 Sea Harrier jump-jets, which operated from India's solitary carrier INS Viraat, was underway.

On 20 January 2004 India finalized the purchase of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov after over a decade of negotiations. But Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes did not reach agreement on other weapons, such as the Tu-22 Backfire bombers or Akula-class nuclear submarines, and nothing was subsequently heard of a Tu-22M lease.

As a part of the $1.5 billion Admiral Gorshkov, India purchased 12 single-seater Mig 29K fighters and four twin-seater MiG-29KUB combat-cum-trainer aircraft to equip the carrier. The four Mig-29KUB trainers were expected to be delivered in 2007 to allow India to train its pilots prior to the delivery of the remaining 12 fighters to be completed by 2009. By mid-2008 the delivery of 16 MiG-29Ks from Russia was slated to begin from October 2008. As of February 2009 it was expected that the first four MiG-29Ks would arrive in India later in 2009, with the other 12 being delivered by 2010.

By mid-2008 plans were to go in for another 30-36 of the fighters. As per the contract, the Navy had the option to purchase another 30 MiG-29K with deliveries up to 2015 to equip the Gorshkov and the new Air Defence Ship being built at the Kochi docks. The Gorshkov was expected to be able to accomodate up to 24 MiG-29Ks as well as six Kamov-28 and KA-31 helicopters. The MiG-29Ks will be supplemented by the naval variant of the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). The Indigenous Aircraft Carrier is designed to carry 12 MiG-29Ks, eight LCA and 10 helicopters.

By mid-2009 it was anticipated that the first six MiG-29K/KUBs along with eight pilots, 39 technicians and four ground engineers will have arrived at Dabolim. The supplementary contract for an additional 29 MiG-29K/KUBs was inked in December 2008 and includes four MiG-29KUBs, Thus, in all the Indian Navy would have, by 2012, eight MiG-29KUBs and 37 MiG-29Ks.

ViraatVikramadityaIAC1 VikrantIAC2 VishalTOTAL
TOTAL3726 - 303050110-167
LCA Tejas--[8]-0
Mig 29K-16 - 2412-45
Sea Harrier30..-30
Ka-28 -6 - 101020
Ka-31 Helix-
Sea King Mk 42A/B7--7
On March 2010 Russia and India signed a $1.5-billion contract on the supply of 29 MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB fighters, over and above the 16 already purchased, the head of the Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG said. "An agreement on supplying an additional set of MiG-29K fighter jets has been signed, the start of supplies is scheduled for 2012," Mikhail Pogosyan said. The deal was signed during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to New Delhi. Pogosyan said Russia should fulfill the previous contract on supplies of single-seat MiG-29K fighters to India by 2010. Russia and India signed a contract stipulating the supply of 12 single-seat MiG-29Ks and four two-seat MiG-29KUBs to India in January 2004. The contract is part of a $1.5 billion deal to deliver the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, being retrofitted in Russia for the Indian navy. India's first MiG-29Ks and MiG-29KUBs officially entered service earlier in 2010.

Commissioning the Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 303, the first MiG 29K squadron of the Indian Navy at INS Hansa in Goa on 11 May 2013, Shri AK Antony, the Defence Minister, said he was confident that the Squadron will make a significant contribution in enhancing peace and stability in our area of operations. It would also provide effective safeguards for unhindered economic development of the nation and other friendly nations in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), he said. The Squadron will very soon operate from INS Vikramaditya. Sri AK Antony also emphasised the importance of India maintaining an edge over its adversaries in defence preparedness which is better served through acquisition of new technology and better training of the personnel, given the fact that the security scenario in the region is changing at a rapid pace.

Both INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant have standard load of 20 fighters and peak load of 24 fighters. If both carriers are at sea IN requirement will be 48 fighters plus 24 fighters a reserve/ atrition replacement. If IAC2 INS Vishal is also included the requirement is for 100 fighters on the persumption only 2 carriers are at sea. TEDBF will be designed for both STOBAR carriers and IAC2 and should be available around 2030 and naval AMCA around 2040 to replace MiG-29K.

In December 2016 Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said the “present LCA does not meet the carrier capability required by the Navy”. Having rejected indigenously built ‘Tejas’ as too heavy, the Navy released a request for information (RFI) for a force of 57 fighters that would form Vishal’s air group on 17 January 2017. The RFI stated the aircraft are “intended as day-and-night capable, all-weather, multi-role, deck-based combat aircraft which can be used for air defence, air-to-surface operations, buddy refuelling, reconnaissance etc from IN aircraft carriers”. Companies were asked to respond by May. Although it was not specified whether the Navy wants single-engine or twin-engine multi-role carrier-borne fighters, sources told the Indian Express that given the roles mentioned, the fighter would be a medium-to-heavy, twin-engine aircraft.

Potential candidates include the twin engine Rafale (Dassault, France), F-18 Super Hornet (Bo eing, US), MIG-29K (Russia) and the single engine F-35B and F-35C (Lockheed Martin, US) and Gripen (Saab, Sweden). The government wanted to manufacture these planes in India.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 13-09-2021 14:51:07 ZULU