The MiG-29K aircraft, attached to INS Hansa base in Dabolim, on a routine mission crashed after an engine failure due to a bird hit in Goa on Saturday morning. The MiG-29K fighter jets are the sole fighters on the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.
Navy Spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said, “The MiG-29K trainer aircraft suffered an engine fire. The pilots Captain M Sheokhand and Lt Commander Deepak Yadav ejected safely. A major tragedy was averted as the pilot pointed the aircraft away from populated areas.”
Experts talking to media stated that the biggest concern is the fact that both the engines failed. The MiG-29K aircraft was a twin-engine model and the idea to have an aircraft like that is to ensure that the pilots can recover it even if one engine fails.”
Navy said in a statement “The pilot observed that the left engine had flamed out and the right engine had caught fire. Attempts to recover the aircraft following the standard operating procedures were unsuccessful due to the nature of the emergency.”
According to experts, “The Indian Navy is facing acute maintenance problems with the 45 Russian-made MiG-29K aircraft, which are the sole fighters on the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.”
The (Indian Navy) want the MiG-29K aircraft to be ruggedized to carry out operations because landing on the deck of the aircraft carrier is almost like a hard landing and the fighter aircraft needs frequent maintenance. There are frequent structural defects due to deck landing, said an expert.
Though this is the first crash of a MiG 29K fighter jet while in air, it has faced operational deficiencies due to defects in engines, airframe and fly-by-wire system, leading to very low availability, in the past too. One of the main concerns was with the aircraft’s engines.
India had ordered 45 of these fighters from Russia but currently operates only less than two dozen of them — the rest are kept as war reserves and in other forms.
A report by India’s autonomous auditing agency in 2017, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, said the MiG-29K was to be technically accepted despite discrepancies and anomalies. According to the report, “Since induction in February 2010, 40 engines (62 percent) of twin-engine MiG-29K fighters have been withdrawn from service due to design-related defects.”
HAL is currently seeking funds from the Navy for the maintenance and overhaul of 113 engines including spares. According to the MoD official, the government would prefer an agreement involving the Navy, Russia and HAL to undertake structural improvements for the MiG-29K fighters.