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The Indian Defence Ministry has confirmed the purchase of 33 fighters from Russia, with the Russian media quoting Indian sources that the request, for 21 MiG-29s and 12 Su-30MKIs, will be sent to Rosoboronexport shortly.

It is interesting to mention that the aircraft, currently held in storage by the Russian MoD, could be delivered “off the shelf”. It has been reported that the MiG-29s are to be upgraded to the UPG version in Russia while Su-30s will be upgraded to MKI standard at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited facilities in Hyderabad. The sum of the contract may exceed a US$1Bn.

If the deal goes through, it will be a sign of the dramatic shift within the Indian arms trade policy. In recent years, India exited the fifth generation combat aircraft programme based on the Russian Su-57 design while the MiG-35 was taken out from the MRCA tender. India also plans to purchase 36 RAFALE aircraft which have a unit price as high as €218M. The contract is to be fulfilled by the end of 2023 but so far just four aircraft have been deliveredA surprise came last week when France announced that technology transfer happens once Delhi buys at least hundred RAFALE aircraft.

The whole story happens in a period of extra tension in India-China bilateral relations. The PRC aviation fleet overcomes its Indian counterpart in both numbers and aircraft quality as it also includes fifth generation fighters.

Yury Laskin