The MiG-29K was drastically modified from the Mikoyan MiG-29M for naval operations. The airframe and undercarriage were reinforced to withstand the stress experienced upon landing. Folding wings, an arrestor hook, and catapult attachments were added for carrier operations; the aircraft's undercarriage was also widened. The MiG-29K, unlike the early MiG-29, can both conduct aerial refueling and "buddy" refuel other aircraft.
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.
Internal fuel was increased from 3,340 kg to 4,560 kg, to give a combat radius of 850 km (531 mi). The combat radius can be increased to 1,300 kilometers with 3 underwing fuel drop tanks. The maximum weight of the aircraft grew from 19.5 to 22.4 t, to allow for increased payloads. The MiG-29KUB two-seat fighter, intended for pilot training, can also conduct combat missions identical to the single-seat fighter.
Cockpit and avionics
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. The types of combat missions undertaken by the MiG-29K can be increased by adding optronic/infrared imaging reconnaissance pods.
The Zhuk-ME is a development of the N010 Zhuk radar, introducing 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 simultaneously. 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 Zhuk-AE radar was developed with modular approach, enabling upgrade of existing Zhuk ME radars deployed in MiG-29 platforms into the active electronically scanned array (AESA) Zhuk-AE standard. India is already operating the Bars phased array radar on its Su-30MKI and has specified AESA as a critical element of the MRCA platform. 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.
Weapons and defensive capabilities
A MiG-29K and its armaments at MAKS Airshow.The folded wings maximise the limited space available on an aircraft carrier.
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. The RD-33MK turbofan engine was also engineered to reduce infrared signature and improve aircraft camouflage.