MiG-29K/KUB Fighters, Ka-52K Helicopters Start Operating Off Admiral Kuznetsov Carrier
(Source: TASS Defense; published Aug. 31, 2016)
MOSCOW --- Mikoyan MiG-29K/KUB (NATO reporting name: Fulcrum-D) carrierborne multirole fighters and Kamov Ka-52K (Hokum-B) attack helicopters have launched training sorties off the Project 11435 (Kuznetsov-class) Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, according to Internet sources.

In particular, photos on social networks have shown the landing of a Ka-52K helicopter on the carrier sitting at the 35th Shipyard in the city of Murmansk, where she is undergoing the second stage of maintenance and repair prior to another cruise. Another picture shows the landing of the advanced ship-based machine on the Admiral Kuznetsov during the latter’s sortie into the Barents Sea. The Ka-52K on that flight carried four drop tanks 550 liters each.

In addition, open sources have published several photos, in which MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB multirole fighters are practicing landing on and taking off the Project 11435 carrier. In particular, MiG-29KUB (codename 9-47R) two-seaters (serial numbers ‘50 blue’ and ‘53 blue’) and MiG-29K (codename 9-41R) singleseaters (serial numbers ‘31 blue’, ‘38 blue’ and ‘48 blue’) were spotted on deck. All of the pictures circulating on the Internet show the fighters taking off and landing in clean configuration. However, the fighter serialed ’31 blue’, which was photographed at the ramp on deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov, had a FAB-500M-54 high-explosive gravity bomb on an underwing BD3-UMK2-B bomb rack.

According to open sources, the Northern Fleet’s 100th Separate Shipborne Fighter Regiment includes 20 MiG-29K single-seat fighter jets serialed 30 to 49 (all blue) and four MiG-29KUB combat trainers (serial numbers 50 to 53 - all blue).

The pictures on the Internet also show the Sukhoi Su-33 (Flanker-D) ship-based fighter (serial ’76 red’) of the 279th Shipborne Fighter Regiment making up the backbone of the Admiral Kuznetsov’s air wing. The plane was not carrying air-launched weapons. In addition, the 20th Aircraft Repair Plant (20th ARZ) is known to have repaired the first Su-33 (serial ’60 red’) with registration number RF-33705. The plant is said to be expected to repair two fighters of the type more (serials ’72 red’ and ’80 red’) this year. Both are with the 279th Regiment.

As was reported in the media, the Admiral Kuznetsov will depart on a cruise to the Eastern Mediterranean as part of a task force of the Northern Fleet in the fall. A military-diplomatic source has told TASS that the carrierborne aircraft would take part in clobbering terrorist groups in Syria from October 2016 through January 2017. Russian Navy Deputy Commander-in-Chief Victor Bursuk said in July 2016 that the Project 11435 carrier would test her updated air wing, including Ka-52K helicopters and 29K/KUB fighters, during her stint in the Eastern Med.

Based on the above, it is very likely that the Russian aircraft carrier, while on mission off the coast of the Syrian Arab Republic, will have onboard a composite air wing made up of Su-33s, MiG-29K/KUBs and helicopters of the Ka-27 and Ka-52K families. Each of the above aircraft types will do its job. Due to a limit on the number and types of air-launched weapons carried, the Su-33 fighters will fly combat air patrols and escort strike planes, while carrying R-27 (AA-10 Alamo) medium-range and R-73 (AA-11 Archer) short-range air-to-air missiles.

The principal mission of the MiG-29K/KUB multirole fighters will be attacks on the terrorists of the Russia-banned Islamic State group in Syria. Apparently, the advanced fighters will use both free-fall and smart bombs. The MiG-29Ks and MiG-29KUBs can haul four KAB-500Kr television/electro-optical homing bombs on underwing weapon stations. At the same time, the advanced fighter jets will be able to use air-to-air missiles, including the medium-range R-77 (AA-12 Adder).

The helicopters of the Ka-27 family will patrol Syria’s waters, carry troops and cargo, air-land infantrymen and conduct surveillance and reconnaissance within the Russian carrier strike group’s area of operations. The latest Ka-52Ks carrying an impressive array of smart and dumb weapons will support the grunts immediately involved in the fight against the Islamic State terrorists. In addition, they can escort Russian transport and transport/attack helicopters as part of the humanitarian relief operation in Syria.

The MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB carrier-borne multirole fighters are designed for defending naval forces from air attacks and striking surface threats with a wide range of munitions, including precision-guided ones. The fighters have enlarged fuel cells and the mid-air refueling system. They can act as airborne tankers for other aircraft once fitted with PAZ-1MK refueling pods. The type is powered by a pair of RD-33MK engines, each with a takeoff thrust of 9,000 kgf. It carries the Zhuk-M slotted-array radar and has a maximum speed of 2,200 km/h and a ferry range of 2,000 km on internal fuel.

The Su-33 is a ship-based air superiority fighter. Its maiden flight took place in 1987. The aircraft entered service in 1998. Its maximum speed at high altitude accounts for 2,300 km/h, with its maximum range standing at 3,000 km. The plane has two AL-31F engines, each producing 12,500 kgf in full afterburner, and the in-flight refueling system. Its weapons suite incorporates air-to-air missiles and unguided weapons.

The Ka-52K Katran attack helicopter is a ship-based version of the baseline Ka-52. Unlike the baseline model, it sports folding main rotor blades and folding stub wings. The machine has reinforced landing gear and can employ the Kh-38 and Kh-35 (AS-20 Kayak) antiship missiles. Previously, only the MiG-29K/KUB and Su-30 fighters carried them.

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