First Indian Purchase of New MiG-29s in 30 Years

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The Indian Ministry of Defense on Thursday cleared a long-pending deal to acquire 21 MiG-29 fighters from Russia, making it the first deal for these jets in over three decades.

The country will also buy 12 Su-30MKI jets from Moscow. India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the procurement on July 2 which includes the upgrade of 59 MiG-29 aircraft.

“While the MIG-29 procurement and upgradation from Russia is estimated to cost INR 7,418 crores ($992M), the Su-30 MKI will be procured from (HAL) Hindustan Aeronautics Limited at an estimated cost of INR 10,730 crore ($1.44B),” the MoD said in a statement.

India became the first export customer of MiG-29s in 1980 when it bought 66 of them. At the time of the order, the fighter was still in its initial development phase.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) inducted its first MiG-29 five years later. These fighters were used extensively during the 1999 Kargil War in Kashmir.

New Delhi and Moscow signed a $888 million deal to upgrade the jets between 2005-06. Under the deal, the Indian MiGs were modified to be capable of deploying the R-77RVV-AE (AA-12 ‘Adder’) air-to-air missiles.

Subsequently, the fighters received multiple upgrades including new avionics, new radars and weapons.

The last purchase of new MiG aircraft was for MiG-29K (aircraft carrier version) for the Indian Navy. Contracts for the same were signed in 2005 (16 jets, $1billion) and 2010 (29 jets, $1.2 billion).

India’s MiG-29UPG

In October 2018, the IAF revealed the upgrade, called the MiG-29UPG, ahead of the Air Force Day celebrations. It expanded the capabilities of Russia’s most exported military jet from an air superiority fighter to a multi-role jet.

The MiG-29UPG is capable of mid-air refuelling and is powered by an improved engine that enables the jet to take off almost vertically on full power.

Other features of the upgraded plane are a multi-functional display, air-to-air refueling and ability to launch precision guided munitions.

A significant part of the Indian upgrade is the radar. The aircraft’s outdated N-019 Topaz air-intercept radar, has been replaced with the Zhuk-ME unit with multimode capabilities and mechanically scanned, slotted antenna.

Highlights of MiG-29UPG upgrade:

  • Ability to deploy R-77RVV-AE (AA-12 ‘Adder’) air-to-air missile
  • Ability to use the advance subsonic anti-ship missile Kh-35E (AS-20 Kayak)
  • Introduced the OLS-UEM IRST sensor with the laser, thermal-imaging and television capabilities
  • Increased the range by 40% to 2,100 km on internal fuel
  • The upgrade improve maintenance which helped reduced maintenance cost by as much as 40%.
  • Using the Indian licence manufacture of the new RD-33 series 3 turbofan engines
  • Introduction of new weapon control system
  • Improved cockpit ergonomics with enhanced HOTAS design, two large and two smaller monochrome LCD
  • Introduction of a retractable inflight refuelling probe, similar to Malaysian MIG-29N and Russian MIG-29SMT
  • Weapons load was increased to 4,500 kg on six underwing and one ventral hard points similar to the MiG-35
  • Secure datalink system
  • Life increased to another 15 years of use
  • Introduction of a bigger centreline tank from 1500 litres to 1800 litres tank extending range toward 3,000km