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MiG-21 and MiG-27 may have become obsolete, but MiG-29 is still a formidable fighter

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New Delhi, Jan 23: The Russian fighters MiG-27 and the MiG-21 are one of the the oldest in the IAF inventory and many of these aircrafts are likely to be phased out in the next 5 years. At a time when the Indian Air Force (IAF) is battling a shortage of warplanes, this phasing out of older MiG planes may actually pave way for better fighters to be inducted.

Representational Image

Some 120-odd MiG-21s continue to be in service. These will be retired in phases till 2021-2022. The IAF will phase out nine squadrons of the MiG-21 and 2 MiG-27 over the next 5 years. Two squadrons of Rafale fighters, two of the LCA Tejas and two more Sukhoi-30MKI are to be added by then, making the number of 28 squadrons by 2022, a report published in The Tribune said.

India is the third largest operator of MiG-21s, behind Russia and China. In 1961, the Indian Air Force (IAF) opted to purchase the MiG-21 over several other Western competitors. As part of the deal, the Soviet Union offered India full transfer of technology and rights for local assembly.

So, it has been in service for over 50 years now which is indeed a long time for a fughter plane to operate, as the technology keeps evolving. MiG 21 and 27 are in a way reminiscents of the Soviet era and some aptly call them as 'flying relics'.

Howeer, another MiG that IAF operates is MiG-29, and that is still considered a formidable fighter. MiG-29 has gained in strength and ferocity after the latest upgrade, giving the Air Force that has been battling a shortage of warplanes a much-needed boost, a PTI report said.

[Indian Air Force's MiG-21 woes: What are the possible replacement options?]

In 2018, the upgraded MiG-29 showcased its combat capabilities at Admapur Air Force Station. The strategically important Adampur Air Force Station, 100 km from Pakistan and 250 km from the border with China, is now home to the upgraded MiG-29s. The Air Force has three squadrons of MiG-29s, two of them at Adampur Air Force Station. One squadron comprises 16-18 aircraft.

[Why Malaysia may prefer LCA Tejas over China-Pak's J-17 fighter?]

The MiG-29's good operational record prompted India to sign a deal with Russia between 2005-2006 to upgrade all 62 jets for over $900 million. The aircraft is effectively 33 years old and still remain an effective weapons platform to this day. Indian review of the MIG-29 does show that the jet structures is still sound and worthwhile the upgrades it needs to performance for another 10-15 years, said a report published in defenceupdates.in.

The fighter aircraft, which played a crucial role in India's victory in the 1999 Kargil war, now is capable of refueling mid-air, lauch multi-dimensional attacks and is now compatible with the latest missile, said Flight Lieutenant Karan Kohli told PTI.

[Is J-20 fighter really better than US' F-35? At least Chinese media claims so]

Flight Lieutenant Kohli said the upgraded MiG-29 also has multi-functional display or MFD, which shows critical flight details on a glass screen in front of the pilot.

MiG-29 may continue to remain good for another 10-15 years, but the bigger problem at hand for India is depleting squadron strength in the IAF. With barely 32 squadrons of fighter aircraft currently in inventory, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is staring at a massive problem. The IAF should ideally have a strength of 42 combat squadrons to be fully prepared for a two-front war.

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