A lot has been said about IAF staring at a depleting fleet size problem as many aircrafts are set to retire in next few years. As per the information in the public domain, the IAF should ideally have a strength of 42 combat squadrons to be fully prepared for a two-front war. With barely 32 squadrons of fighter aircraft currently in inventory, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is staring at a massive problem.
Rafale deal has been struck and the first French fighter would be delivered in September and in the next few years, 35 more would come. But, that is not enough. The IAF will be phasing out nine squadrons of the MiG-21 and 2 MiG-27 over the next 5 years.
Tejas was supposed to have played a key role in IAF’s scheme things. It was thought that India’s requirement for single engine fighters could be met with LCA Tejas. But due to multiple problems encountered during Tejas’s development and HAL’s failure to meet the delivery deadlines, IAF was forced to look at other foreign aircrafts.
So to make up the failing number of fighters, from where will the remaining come from. Undoubtedly, IAF will have to start procurement process, whether it is Eurofighter Typhoon or the F-22, that is for the time tell. Here is what we know so far.
IAF will get the MiG-29 fighters upgraded to the latest standards by Russia, and get them at virtually throwaway prices, reportedly Rs 200 crore per piece. They will augment the 62 MiG-29 fighters that are in the IAF’s fleet which are also being upgraded to give them an all-weather multi-role capability. In fact, there are reportedly 15 more such aircraft.
IAF is in advance talks with Russia for an urgent procurement of MiG 29 fighters that can be delivered at a relatively short notice. The plan to acquire 21 additional aircraft to make a new squadron of MiG 29 jets that were first purchased in the 1980s has been discussed in detail last month and is expected to cost the Indian exchequer less than Rs 6,000 crore. The MiG 29s, if procured, will cost significantly lesser than the Rafale fighter jets.
MiG has been the backbone of the IAF for decades now. Many expert have raised concerns that these Russian made planes are old and not fit for current era of fifth generation fighters. MiGs are also referred to as ‘flying relics’. Given this, is it a good move to buy more of them.
Is it a good move to buy more MiGs?
India is going for MiG-29s which have been significantly upgraded. In fact when MiG-29 downed a Pakistani F-16 in March during a dogfight, many marvelled at it. But, Russia promptly issued a statement saying that new MiGs are comparable to modern F series of fighters made by the us.
This is what we know of new MiG 29s:
According to the defence ministry, the upgraded aircraft are now being used for routine operations in frontline squadrons and are equipped with the “state-of-the-art avionics, an array of smart air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons and in-flight refuelling”.
The upgrade with new weapons and avionics is aimed at turning the twin-engine MiG-29 from an air defence fighter into a far more lethal all-weather multi-role fighter into a far more lethal all-weather multi-role fighter. In 2018, the upgraded MiG-29 showcased its combat capabilities at Admapur Air Force Station. The strategically important Adampur Air Force Station, 100 km from Pakistan and 250 km from the border with China, is now home to the upgraded MiG-29s. The Air Force has three squadrons of MiG-29s, two of them at Adampur Air Force Station.
One squadron comprises 16-18 aircraft. The MiG-29’s good operational record prompted India to sign a deal with Russia between 2005-2006 to upgrade all 62 jets for over $900 million.
The aircraft is effectively 33 years old and still remain an effective weapons platform to this day. Indian review of the MIG-29 does show that the jet structures is still sound and worthwhile the upgrades it needs to performance for another 10-15 years, said a report published in defenceupdates.in.
The fighter aircraft, which played a crucial role in India’s victory in the 1999 Kargil war, now is capable of refueling mid-air, lauch multi-dimensional attacks and is now compatible with the latest missile, said Flight Lieutenant Karan Kohli told PTI. MiG-29 may continue to remain good for another 10-15 years.
Should the IAF buy more Mig-29s from Russia ?
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