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.
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).
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 The aircraft’s outdated N-019 Topaz air-intercept radar, has been replaced with the Zhuk-ME unit with multimode capabilities and mechanically scanned, slotted antenna.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