The Indian Air Force (IAF) is looking to purchase 21 Russian MiG-29 jets to address the shortfall of combat aircraft in a deal estimated to be valued at $900 million (INR 6,300 Crore).
“The airframes are ready and Russia has promised to deliver all 21 fighters within 18 months,” a senior air force official was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying Thursday.
The IAF requires 42 squadrons (each comprising 16 -18 fighters) for its operations, but has only 30 presently. More squadrons will be decommissioned in the coming months. French-made Dassault Rafale supersonic multi-role fighters will be delivered to the country September this year.
The MiG-29s are upgraded with a more effective radar system, controls, and avionics systems, dorsal and wing tanks, and air-to-air refueling making the aircraft 4.5 generation fighters priced between INR 285-300 Crore per fighter.
“The price is extremely competitive. The endurance of the aircraft is now nearly 5 hours with the additional fuel tanks,” the report quoted a defense ministry official as saying.
The IAF already has three squadrons of MiG-29 positioned along the western borders. The country has one fighter Aircraft Repair Depot, Air Force station Ozar in Nashik (Maharashtra) where some of the MiG-29s are being upgraded with the help of Russian Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).
“We do not need to set up a fresh facility to maintain the fighters. In addition, the Ozar facility has ensured that at least 75% of the fleet is always available for operational deployment,” another official said.
“Importantly, the IAF already has crew and maintenance staff trained. Induction of the fighters will not require a fresh effort,” the official added.