India may an Indian Air Force (IAF) team to examine Malaysia's 20 year old MiG-29 fighter jet fleet to possibly buy the planes, upgrade and induct them into the IAF fleet.
"There is a possibility too that India will buy our MiG 29 aircraft for refit. We reciprocate by accepting spare parts for our Sukhoi aircraft program," Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted as saying by Bernama news agency last week following his visit to New Delhi and meetings with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Malaysia had bought 16 MiG-29s from Russia in 1995 but due to limited hours' training, lots of life is still left in six MiG-29s which are operational in the Royal Malaysian Air Force. India expects that with limited upgradation, the MiG-29s can be available for service for the next two decades.
The cost of the upgradation is also expected to be low, Sputnik news reported Saturday.
"Malaysia is a friendly country. India has for years supported training of Malaysian pilots by positioning MiG-29 instructors. India has also supported the maintenance of these aircraft and provided spares.” said Air Marshal (Retd) Anil Chopra to Sputnik News, the team leader of the MiG-21 upgrade project in Russia in the late 1990s.
“India is quite conversant with the technical state of these aircraft. They may also come relatively cheap," Chopra added.
The upgradation of the Indian Air Force's 67 MiG-29s is nearing completion with 90 percent of indigenous spare parts which would extend their service life by another 10-15 ytears
Earlier this month, the Indian and Malaysian Prime Ministers envisaged greater defense co-operation between the two countries including purchase of MiG-29.
The Indian Air Force is facing the aircraft scarcity due to retirement of MiG-21 fleet and similar older generation aircraft. Recently, India has signed deal to procure 36 Rafale aircraft from France but deliveries of the aircraft would only begin in September 2019 and is expected to be completed by April 2022. Further, 123 indigenous LCA Tejas will also be inducted by 2024 only.
The current Indian Air Force strength is 34 squadrons with 18-20 aircraft per squadron, which is obviously below the required strength of 42 squadrons suggested by the Indian parliamentary panel for defense for two front wars.