The induction of the Russian-origin MiG-29K fighter aircrafts [MiG-29KUB, the twin-seater trainer variant] into the Indian Navy's air wing provides it with a quantum leap in capabilities. With higher operating speed [supersonic, as opposed to the subsonic Sea Harrier, it currently operates], greater range, much greater weapon load & a much more powerful on-board radar, the MiG-29Ks, taking off from one of the Indian Navy's future Aircraft Carriers would be capable of causing some serious damage to the belligerents, provided the civilian leadership of the country can muster the required political will to respond in anger.
This graphic, below, shows the various Russian-origin missiles that the Fulcrums acquired by India would be able to carry with it during combat, to perform different missions.
Click on the picture to view the larger image
A brief description of these weapons
Gas-powered Cannon capable of firing 30 mm caliber rounds
Fire-and-forget-type guided bomb carrying a 500 explosive warhead capable of piercing through concrete reinforcement & armor
Air-To-Surface Missile equipped with Electro-Optical Guidance system
Sea-skimming [hugging], supersonic, anti-Ship Cruise Missile
Suppression of Enemy Air Defense [SEAD] Anti-Radiation Missile
Subsonic Anti-Ship Cruise missile
Short-range Air-To-Air Missile
|RVV-AE [R-77]|| |
Beyond-Visual-Range [B.V.R] Air-To-Air Missile
Besides, the aircrafts are also capable of carrying a wide variety of unguided bombs & rockets, as per demands of the mission. The engine shown is the RD-33MK Turbofan engine, a variant developed specifically to power the ship-borne MiG-29K & MiG-29KUB aircraft. The MiG-29s flown by the Indian Air Force [IAF] too are powered by a different variant of the same RD-33 engines.
While India is to acquire a total of 45 of these MiG-29K+KUB aircraft, it is also pursuing the indigenous development of its own fighter aircraft capable of launching & landing on Aircraft Carriers India is to begin operating from the next decade [hopefully] - INS Vikramaditya & the Vikrant-class Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 1 [IAC-1] (IAC-2 too being planned). Design for this indigenous aircraft is being adapted from the Light Combat Aircraft [LCA] Tejas, that is being developed for service in the IAF, termed LCA-Navy.
However, aircraft developed for Carrier operations need to address some unique challenges, not relevant to aircrafts flown by the Air Forces [AF]. Unlike, aircrafts flown by the AF which gradually come to a stop upon landing, taxing down the long runway available to it, Carrier-based aircrafts need to be stopped within a relatively miniscule distance available on the deck. It is achieved by retarding the motion of the landing aircraft with the help of arrestor wires laid across the deck, which gets latched on to the aircraft's tail-hook [again, unique only to Carrier-borne aircraft], bringing it to a sudden halt. A land-based analogy would be a procedure to stop a car by colliding it with a wall. Thus to be able to do it over-and-over again would require that the aircraft be strengthened to be able to sustain the extremely high stress acting on it on stopping. It normally entails using more material & heavier components to make the system, especially its landing gears that actually make contact. However, using heavier materials to build the aircraft would result into the aircraft itself becoming heavy & therefore being able to carry a lower weapons payload - highly undesirable. Thus the challenges facing the designers is to build an aircraft that it light in weight, to allow it to carry the maximum possible load, & yet be strong enough to sustain the high stresses acting on it - on the face of it, two antithetical requirements. It would be a wonderful technological achievement, accomplished by only a few other countries when India too manages to fulfill these requirements in the aircraft. Watch the following video, a lecture, to gain a better understanding of requirements to be met by a carrier-borne fighter aircraft.
In December, there had been rumors that the twin-seater variant of the LCA-Navy, that had been unveiled in 2010, having performed successful ground-based taxi trials, would take to the skies in December 2011. Well, the month, & so did the year, passed by, but there were no reports of any flight having taken placed, yet. Fingers crossed.