The Indian Air Force will start inducting the first batch of its upgraded MiG-29 fighters by the year-end, packing a much-needed punch for its depleting combat capabilities.
Russian fighter manufacturer RAC MiG is equipping the fighter with new avionics, weapons, radar, glass cockpit and helmet mounted displays to make it a more potent platform. The upgrade involves overhauling the fighter’s airframe and installing an in-flight refueling system to expand its range.
India and Russia signed a $1 billion (Rs 4,500 crore) contract in 2008 to modernise the IAF’s fleet of 63 MiG-29 fighters. The modernisation of the first three MiG-29s has been completed in Russia and these would join the air force fleet by November-December. These fighters had arrived in Russia two years back.
Mikhail T Globenko, RAC MiG’s director for marketing and sales, told HT at the MAKS 2011 airshow outside Moscow that focus of the upgrade was to convert the MiG-29 into a multi-role fighter, capable of undertaking different combat missions with the flip of a switch.
The fighter, inducted in the IAF in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was originally designed as an air superiority fighter. Globenko said, “The upgraded MiG-29s have been equipped with air-to-surface missiles to engage ground targets.”
Russia will upgrade around 10 MiG-29 fighters, while the remaining will be modernised by the IAF. The upgrade programme is crucial for the IAF that has been hamstrung by deteriorating combat potential --- it only has 34 fighter squadrons compared to the sanctioned 39 and half.
(The writer is in Zhukovsky at the invitation of Russian ministry of industry and trade)