Between November 2019 and November 2020 inclusive, the Indian Navy lost three of its MiG-29K fighter jets to accidents. Might these chronic accidents compel New Delhi to seek a new fighter for its aircraft carriers in the foreseeable future?
On Nov. 26, 2020, an Indian MiG-29K crashed in the Arabian Sea after taking off from the country’s flagship, the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. While the co-pilot managed to eject and survive the crash the pilot was killed and his body wasn’t found until over a week later.
Previous crashes occurred on Feb. 23, 2020 and Nov. 16, 2019. The first loss of an Indian MiG-29K occurred in Jan. 3, 2018, when one of those jets veered off a runway and caught fire. In all these accidents all the pilots managed to eject on time and survived.
India bought a total of 45 MiG-29Ks from Russia in two orders made in 2004 and 2010 respectively. Long before any of these crashes, there were reservations about this choice. For example, when a Russian MiG-29K trainer crashed killing both pilots in June 23, 2011, that “cast a shadow on the credibility of the aircraft itself” in India reported Defense News at the time, citing Indian Defense Ministry officials.
Then, in July 2016, the Controller and Auditor General of India charged that India’s MiG-29K fleet “is riddled with problems relating to [its] airframe, RD MK-33 engine and fly-by-wire system.”