In the middle of the standoff that India has with China, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is seeking to urgently procure 21 additional MiG 29 fighter jets from Russia to add to its three squadrons of the type already in service. The IAF is going ahead with plans to order 33 additional fighter jets from Russia, with the proposal expected to be taken up for clearances by the Indian Ministry of Defence shortly. These fighters, which include two trainers, are expected to be procured as they have already been partially manufactured in Russia for a previous order that got cancelled. The government-to-government procurement has been in the works for more than a year and would add to the force’s depleting squadron strength.
MiG-29s are flown by the IAF and the pilots are familiar with it but the ones offered by the Russians are different from the ones in the Indian inventory. The IAF has three squadrons of the MiG-29s which have been undergoing upgrades for extended life and are considered reliable in the air defence roles. These fighters, if ordered, would come handy to replace the ageing MiG 21 squadrons that are to retire within the next five years. Commercial negotiations have been on since last year to take the contract ahead and the offer would now need to be cleared by the defence ministry’s procurement body.
Besides the MiGs, the IAF is also set to go ahead with an order for additional Su 30 MKI fighter jets, to add to the current order book of 272 fighters. The 12 additional fighters likely to be ordered could be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics LtdNSE -0.70 % (HAL), which has a production facility at Nasik that will run out of orders by next year. The Sukhoi’s form the backbone of the IAF and are due for an upgrade that is being negotiated separately with HAL. These 33 fighters would be the first jets to be ordered after the Rafale deal inked in 2017 and would add to the combat capabilities of the air force.