Mig 29K vs Rafale-M – which one should Indian Navy opt for ?

Indian navy has bought Mikhoyan Mig 29k for it’s upcoming aircraft carriers. There are quite a few aircraft carriers in pipeline so it is quite obvious that IN would be requiring modern jets. As of now Indian navy has ordered 45 Mig 29k for its sea based aerial operations.

However if we look a bit elsewhere, a contender to Mig 29k comes into view without much difficulty. It is the Rafale, which has already conquered it’s first frontier in India, with it’s winning of the MMRCA competition. IAF opting for the Rafale should embolden the Indian navy to trod the same path as the IAF.

As, having experience with Russian equipments and having already used it’s former predecessors, it is no surprise that Mig 29k is the first to get onboard India’s Aircraft carriers. However, Rafale is a newer aircraft with modern design and technologies. It has it’s own advantages. So, let’s just compare some points of both the aircrafts..

MiG-29K is a carrier based multirole fighter. It is extremely maneuverable and one of the most modern fulcrum present in the world. The problem marring the previous variant of MiG-29 were elimated and all the systems like fuel storage, radar, avionics, smoky engines, weapons, fire control systems, HOTAS, HMD and IRST system were upgraded.

But the main problem affecting the performance is its serviceability. MiG-29K has a serviceability of just 28% to 45%. It means only 28-45% fighter are capable of operations at anytime. But localizing the production of spare parts like the engines has increased to the serviceability to some extent.

MiG-29K being a light fighter, can easily takeoff with full payload and fuel from an aircraft carrier. Also more MiG-29K can stored in the carrier’s hangar due to its small size.


Mig 29k :

The MiG-29K program was revived in response to the decision of the Indian Navy to acquire the former Soviet Navy aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov in 2004. Mig-29k is basically an evolved version of Mig-29, fitted with a stronger undercarriage and a reinforced tail section with an arrestor hook. Modifications also include foldable wings.

Rafale :

The Rafale was developed as a modern jet fighter with a very high level of agility; Dassault chose to combine a delta wing with active close-coupled canard to maximize maneuverability, the aircraft is capable of withstanding 9 g or −3.6 g. The Rafale is an aerodynamically unstable aircraft, thus digital fly-by-wire flight controls are employed to artificially enforce and maintain stability. The aircraft’s canards also act to reduce the minimum landing speed to 115 knots (213 km/h; 132 mph), while in flight, airspeeds as low as 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) have been observed during training missions. Although not a full-aspect stealth aircraft, the cost of which was viewed as unacceptably excessive, the Rafale was designed for a reduced radar cross-section (RCS) and infra-red signature.

Cockpit and avionics

Mig-29k :

The aircraft is equipped with three multifunctional color liquid-crystal displays (seven LCDs on the MiG-29KUB), a four-channel digital fly-by-wire flight control system, passive anti-radar missile homing system, Sigma-95 GPS receiver, TopGun helmet-mounted targeting system and electronic countermeasures (ECM). Additionally, an onboard oxygen generating system eliminates the need for heavy oxygen canisters.

Rafale :

The Rafale’s glass cockpit was designed around the principle of data fusion – a central computer intelligently selects and prioritises information to display to pilots for simpler command and control. Some special cockpit features : hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS)-compatible configuration, direct voice input (DVI) system, wide-angle holographic head-up display (HUD) system, integrated modular avionics (IMA), called MDPU (modular data processing unit).

Radar and sensors

Mig-29k :

Mig-29k was developed with the zhuk-me radar which evolved from the N010 Zhuk radar, introducing newer functions such as terrain mapping and following. The radar, weighing 220 kilograms (490 lb), features improved signal processing and a detection range of up to 120 km vs a 5 m2 RCS target for the export variant. In the air targeting mode, up to 10 targets can be tracked and 4 targets engaged simontaneously. In air to surface mode the radar can detect a tank from up to 25 kilometres (16 mi) away and a bridge from 120 kilometres (75 mi) away, a naval destroyer could be detected up to 300 kilometres (190 mi) away, while up to two surface targets can be tracked at once. The radar has a scanning area of +/- 85 degrees in azimuth and +56/-40 in elevation. The Mig-29K can be outfitted with an IRST system integrated with both optical and laser systems. It can provide targeting solutions for ground and air targets at up to 15 km, with all-round 360 degree coverage. The IRST can also provide detailed trajectories of missiles at closer ranges.

Rafale :

The Rafale is typically outfitted with the Thales RBE2 passive electronically scanned multi-mode radar. Thales claims to have achieved unprecedented levels of situational awareness through the earlier detection and tracking of multiple air targets for close combat and long-range interception, as well as real-time generation of three-dimensional maps for terrain-following and the real-time generation of high resolution ground maps for navigation and targeting. The RBE2 AA active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar is planned to replace the existing passively scanned RBE2. The RBE2 AA is reported to deliver a greater detection range, improved reliability and reduced maintenance demands over the preceding radar. By early 2014, the first Air Force front-line squadron will receive Rafales equipped with the AESA radar; the French Navy is slated to receive AESA-equipped Rafales from 2013. To enable the Rafale to perform in the air supremacy role, it includes several passive sensor systems. The front-sector electro-optical system or Optronique Secteur Frontal (OSF), developed by Thales, is completely integrated within the aircraft and can operate both in the visible and infrared wavelengths. The OSF enables the deployment of infrared missiles such as the MICA at beyond visual range distances. It can also be used for detecting and identifying airborne targets, as well as those on the ground and at sea.


Mig-29k :

The MiG-29K has two widely-spaced RD-33MKs. The early prototypes were fitted with two RD-33K turbofan engines, each with afterburner thrust of 86.3 kN (19,800 lb) and a possible take-off thrust of 92.2 kN (20,723 lbf) for shipborne operations. The RD-33MK engine features 7% higher power over the base RD-33, enabled by the usage of improved materials for the turbine blades.

Rafale :

The Rafale is fitted with the Snecma M88 engine, capable of providing up to 50 kN (11,250 lbf) of dry thrust and 75 kN (16,900 lbf) with afterburners. The M-88 enable the Rafale to supercruise at speeds of up to Mach 1.4 while carrying a loadout of six MBDA MICA air-to-air missiles. As of 2007, a thrust vectoring variant of the engine designated as M88-3D was also under development.


Mig-29k :
MiG-29K has a GSh-30-1 30 mm cannon in the port wing root. It has provisions for laser-guided and electro-optical bombs, as well as air-to-surface missiles like Kh-25ML/25MP, Kh-29T, Kh-31G/31A, Kh-35U, and rockets. Kh-31P passive radar seeker missiles are used as anti-radiation missiles. Kh-35, Kh-31A antiship missiles are for anti-ship roles. For aerial combat air-to-air missile like RVV-AE, R-27ER/ET and R-73E are fitted. The aircraft is also adaptable to various foreign weapons. The MiG-29K has a combination of low-observable technology, advanced electronic-warfare capabilities, reduced ballistic vulnerability, and standoff weapons to enhance the fighter’s survivability. According to Mikoyan, extensive use of radar-absorbent materials reduce the MiG-29K’s radar signature 4–5 times over the basic MiG-29.

Rafale :
Rafales are capable of undertaking many different mission roles with a range of equipment: air defence/superiority missions with Mica IR and EM air-to-air missiles, precision ground attacks typically using SCALP EG cruise missiles and AASM Hammer air-to-surface armaments, anti-shipping using the AM39 Exocet sea-skimming missile, reconnaissance via a combination of onboard and external pod-based sensor equipment, and nuclear deterrence operations when armed with ASMP-A missiles. In 2010, France ordered 200 MBDA Meteor beyond visual range missiles, greatly increasing the distance at which the Rafale can engage aerial targets. The Rafale is typically outfitted with 14 hard points, five of which are suitable for heavy armaments or equipment such as auxiliary fuel tanks, and has a maximum external load capacity of nine tons. In addition to the above equipment, the Rafale can be outfitted with a range of laser-guided bombs and ground-attack munitions. All versions of the Rafale also carry the 30 mm GIAT 30 DEFA cannon.


Mig-29k :
Speed: Mach 2+ (2,200 km/h, 1,370 mph) / At low altitude: Mach 1.2 (1,400 km/h, 870 mph).
Ferry range: 2,100 km (1,240 mi) / 3,000 km (1,860 mi) with 3 drop tanks
Combat radius : 850km
Service ceiling: 17,500 m (57,400 ft)
Rate of climb: initial 330 m/s, average 109 m/s 0-6000 m (65,000 ft/min)
Wing loading: 442 kg/m² (90.5 lb/ft²)
Thrust/weight: 0.97

Rafale :
Maximum speed:High altitude: Mach 1.8+ (2,130+ km/h, 1,050+ knots)Low altitude: Mach 1.1+ (1,390 km/h, 750 knots)
Range: 3,700+ km (2,000+ nmi)
Combat radius: 1,852+ km (1,000+ nmi) on penetration mission
Service ceiling: 16,800 m (55,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 304.8+ m/s (60,000+ ft/min)
Wing loading: 306 kg/m² (62.8 lb/ft²)
Thrust/weight: 0.988 (100% fuel, 2 EM A2A missile, 2 IR A2A missile) version M

In short, both the planes r proven platforms and has proven it’s mettle. However, the decision lies with the IN whether they want a revamped old fighter or a brand new one. Also keeping in mind the price point, Rafale is substantially costlier than the Mig-29k.

Design of Rafale is 4+ gen incorporating CC materials providing reduced RCS and better stealth than Mig-29k. However heat signatures from Mig-29k engine is very well shielded(one of the best in the world).

Both the planes provide excellent weapons choices and keeping in mind that India already operates bothFrench and Russian platforms, it wont be problem integrating the Indian weapon systems.

Reliability of both the aircraft is excellent, though some r skeptical about Russian products, especially Russian engines being susceptible to FOD.

Radar and sensors of Rafale is a step ahead of Mig-29k and with the AESA radar now ready, the Rafale is quite ahead of it’s counterpart in this field.

Operational range of Rafale is significantly more with comparable service ceiling and also slightly better payload capacity.

Keeping in mind all these points Indian navy should opt for Rafale if it wants to plan for the future……but, if it wants to be economical, value for money fighter and wants immediate solution, the Mig-29k perfectly fits the bill.


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Source:- Defence Forum India

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