The Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to buy a brand new squadron of upgraded MiG-29 multi-role fighters from Russia to support its depleting squadrons. The IAF is still using MiG-29, Mirage 2000 and Jaguar which is badly hampering its air superiority.
According to Business Standard, these 21 Mig-29s were manufactured way back in the 1970s by Russia company RAC MiG. The Russian Air Force could not buy these aircraft due to lack of funds.
These MiG-29s have been kept unused for the last three decades. In fact, their wings have also been kept separate from their bodies. Recently, the Russian manufacturer had invited IAF to buy them at an initial price which is below $25 million (Rs 175 crore). Notably, even the homemade Tejas Mark 1 fighter is costlier than this amount.
"A high-level IAF team has returned from Russia, where we found the MiG-29s to be in excellent condition. They could make an excellent addition to our fleet and we are submitting a positive report," a senior IAF official said.
The Mikoyan MiG-29 is a twin-engine fighter aircraft developed by the Mikoyan design bureau as an air superiority fighter during the 1970s. These aircraft were the Russian answers to new US fighters such as McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle and General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Russian Air Force started using MiG-29s from 1982.
After the US supplied F-16 Falcons to the Pakistan Air Force, the IAF inducted MiG-29s in the late 1980s. Since its induction, there have been three MiG-29 squadrons - "First Supersonics", "Black Archers" and "Tridents". Two out of these three squadrons are stationed in Adampur, Punjab, and the third is in Jamnagar, Gujarat.
The IAF is in dire need of maintaining the number of squadrons required for a possible two-front war. The IAF is down to 31 fighter aircraft squadrons when it needs 42 squadrons to simultaneously fight a war on two fronts.
Four squadrons (two each of MiG-21 and MiG-27) are retiring in 2019. Moreover, all the remaining seven squadrons of MiG-21 will retire by 2024. The pace of indigenous Tejas fighter aircraft's development is also slow and still awaits final operational clearance from the IAF.