J C Menon
The Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to buy 21 modernised MiG-29s and 12 Su-30MKIs from Russia in the face of a depleted combat aircraft fleet with India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) expected to give a green signal for the proposal as early as end of this month, according to an MoD official.
The IAF has been in advance talks with Russia for the urgent procurement of 21 MiG-29 fighters currently stored in Russia in order to form a new squadron at a cost of about 60Bn rupees which if successful, will cost significantly less than the RAFALE fighter jets India is acquiring from France. The IAF wants the MiG-29s to be equipped with indigenous weapons systems, including the ASTRA missiles. The proposal also includes the acquisition of 12 Su-30 MKIs to replace a number of aircraft lost in accidents. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will assemble the Su-30s and the MiG-29s are expected to come in flyaway condition.
The IAF has a sanctioned strength of 272 Su-30 MKIs and also operates 69 MiG-29 UPGs jets. The first Su-30 MKI aircraft entered service with the IAF on 27th September 2002, and since then 259 more have joined the force with Russia having delivered all components and kits to HAL to assemble 222 Su-30 MKIs. Out of the 272 fighters, the first 50 were manufactured in Russia and flown to India.
The IAF has barely 32 squadrons of fighter aircraft currently in its inventory, and aims to have a strength of 42 combat squadrons to be fully prepared for a two-front war with the additional Su-30 MKIs and MiG-29s adding two more squadrons to the IAF fighter fleet.