In the 1980’s, the Mikoyan bureau began work on a carrier-based version of the Mig-29. Initially, the Mig-29M was used as a base for the new fighter, dubbed the Mig-29K. However, the aircraft was turned down in favor of its rival, the Su-33. The Mikoyan bureau continued to improve the aircraft, even despite the poor economic conditions of the 1990’s. In 2004, India signed a contract to receive the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier. The ship itself was free, but India would have to pay to not only have it modernized, but for the weapons systems and aircraft systems as well. To meet India’s need for a carrier-based fighter, Mikoyan received a boost for the Mig-29K project.
The newly redesigned and upgraded Mig-29K prototype was first shown to the public in 2007, along with its look-alike, the Mig-35. Both aircraft were based on the 2-seat Mig-29M2 airframe. This new Mig is available in two versions: the single-seat Mig-29K and the two-seat Mig-29KUB. They look exactly alike and both incorporate a 2 seat canopy, though the single version uses the space for additional avionics and fuel. India began ordering Mig-29K and Mig-29KUB fighters starting in 2004, and now operates sixteen out of a total of forty planned. Recent rumors state that the new Mig-29K will replace the aging Su-33 carrier-based fighters.
The Mig-29K is equipped with the new Zhuk-E radar, which can detect up to ten targets at a time and engage four of them. The Mig-29K is also equipped with an electronic counter measures suite and the pilot is equipped with a helmet-mounted targeting system. The Mig-29K is powered by two RD-33MK engines and has a maximum endurance (range without the aid of additional drop tanks) of 850 km. Besides the standard GSH-30-1 30 mm cannon, the Mig-29K can carry the latest Russian laser guided bombs, air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, anti-radiation missiles, anti-ship missiles, and even foreign counterparts. The Mig-29K makes use of radar absorbent material to decrease its radar signature and is considered a 4 ++ generation aircraft, just like the Mig-35 and Su-35S.
Photos taken from russianplanes.net.