IAF to place order for 21 Mig-29 by December

Mig-29 fighter

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is about to put an order with Russia for 21 twin-engine MiG-29 jets by December, ThePrint has learnt. Of the 1980s vintage, the jets are not any longer in production but 21 airframes built then remain in Russia. Top sources within the security and defence establishment said the jets purchased by India are going to be upgraded to the newest version before they arrive here. 

The acquisition comes because the IAF faces a depleting force strength thanks to its fleet of legacy aircraft and budgetary constraints. 

The IAF, the sources said, will first place orders for the MiG-29, then enter for an additional 12 Su-30 MKI, which are being manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under licence from Russia. 

The IAF is additionally expected to soon place a long-pending order for the indigenous 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mark 1A. 

“We have completed the discussions with Russia. We are becoming the MiG-29s at a really good price. we'll soon finalise it. The order for the 12 additional Su-30 MKI are going to be placed with HAL after this,” a source said, refusing to urge into the pricing details. 

India and Russia are in talks for the acquisition of more MiG-29 jets since last year. 

The Mig-29 airframes are lying with Moscow since the late 1980s but haven't been flown. The sources said a study conducted on the airframes had found them in fitness

“The airframes are in good quality. they're going to now fit all the equipment and other systems as a part of the deal,” the source quoted above said. 

Dwindling numbers 

The choice to urge the aircraft comes amid a dwindling fighter strength within the IAF and budgetary constraints that make it difficult for the force to get new aircraft within the numbers it wants. 

While the sanctioned strength of the IAF is 42 squadrons of fighters, the present strength is 30. 

At his annual news conference Monday, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria said albeit all acquisition plans are put in motion with strict timelines, he would be happy if the strength reaches 36-37 squadrons within the next decade. 

He was also very candid about the challenge of budgetary constraints, saying their effect might not be felt immediately but are going to be within the future. 

“Budgetary constraints are going to be there. it's not affecting us today. it'll have an impact in due course if we don’t put the contracts in situ ,” he had said. 

India currently has three squadrons of the MiG-29 — a twin-engine single-seat air superiority fighter . One squadron comprises 18 aircraft and every one of them are currently being upgraded in-house by the IAF. 

The aircraft is undergoing structural also as avionics upgrade, besides being equipped with a replacement weapons package. 

With the new air-to-air refuelling feature, an upgraded MiG-29 can cover larger distances compared to the previous aircraft, something the IAF is keen on, keeping in mind the likelihood of a two-front war scenario. 

The upgraded MiG-29s have all the newest features, including a glass cockpit with digital screens. The upgraded aircraft also can do air-to-ground, air-to-air and even anti-shipping operations.

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