Severely short of fighters, IAF wants government to purchase Russian-made MiGs

New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is pushing the government to buy a further 21 Russian-made MiG -29 ground attack and air-defence aircraft. The IAF is severely short of fighters, a senior official said.

IAF has only 30 squadrons although it requires at least 42, each including 16 -18 fighters. The shortfall is expected to increase as more squadrons will be decommissioned in the coming months.

First Rafale fighter jets expected in September 2019

India is likely to receive first Rafale fighter jets — the French-made medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) — in September 2019.

The IAF’s three squadrons of MiG-29 are positioned along the western borders.

The Indian Navy too uses the naval version of the MiG-29 fighters. They are positioned on the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.

Earlier, in February 2019, a team of senior IAF officials visited Russia to inspect the fleet of the MiG 29 fighters.

“The airframes are ready and Russia has agreed to deliver all 21 fighters within 18 months,” the senior IAF official said on condition of anonymity.

The 21 MiG -29 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 — the ones that first appeared on the scene between 1990 and 2000. It costs Rs 285-300 crore per fighter.

“The price is extremely competitive,” another senior defence ministry official said. “The endurance of the aircraft is now nearly 5 hours with the additional fuel tanks.”