The Indian Air Force (IAF) is reportedly in advanced negotiations with Russia over an urgent procurement of additional MiG-29 jet fighters. The discussed purchase would involve 21 additional MiG-29s to equip a new squadron.
The IAF has a standing requirement to field 42 operational combat aircraft squadrons but currently struggles to stand up 31 such units. Making matters even more worrisome are the operational readiness and serviceability problems related to the IAF’s existing combat aircraft fleet.
With 36 Dassault Rafale fighters due to become operational in 2022, the IAF will soon have two additional squadrons of advanced combat aircraft to shore-up its aging fleet. But during that same timeframe the phase-out for squadrons made up of older, Russian-legacy MiG-21s and MiG-27s, will be underway, thus negating the numerical gains made by the arrival of the Rafales.
The IAF has an existing stock of MiG-29s sufficient to equip three squadrons. These were procured during the 1980s and are being progressively upgraded to the UPG standard under a roughly $1 billion deal signed with Russia in March 2008. The upgrade work is conducted at the IAF’s Base Repair Depot. Each aircraft, once redelivered, will have an extended life service span of 10-15 years.
The additional MiG-29s in question are currently mothballed in Russian depots (and reportedly unfinished). Any deal would require them to be upgraded to the latest standard to include air-to-ground capabilities and extend their range.