As tensions between two of Asia’s superpowers China and India continue to simmer, the Russian government has handed over a commercial offer for the supply of 21 MiG-29 fighter aircraft. The move was made public on the sidelines of the MAKS airshow being held in Moscow
Valeria Reshetnikova, in a statement to Sputnik on Tuesday, said “The Indian Air Force staff received a tender request for the supply of 21 aircraft in 2021. The Russian side has transferred to Indian partners the commercial offer that is now being considered by the customer,”
The Indian Air Force, amidst dwindling Squadron strength, had requested an order of 33 fighter aircraft from Russia last summer amidst the then ongoing clashes in the banks of Pangong Tso lake along the Line of Actual Control. The aircraft ordered were 21 MiG-29 point defence interceptor aircraft and 12 Sukhoi Su-30MKI air superiority fighter aircraft, as a measure to recover peacetime losses, as well as restrengthen the Squadron strength. There are about 18 aircraft in each fighter Squadron apart from reserves, which means that the order would replenish at least 2 Squadrons worth of aircraft.
The Fulcrum in the IAF
The Indian Air Force had procured the MiG-29B Fulcrum (also known as “Baaz” in Indian service), as an advancement to strengthen air dominance. The first unit to procure the type was No. 28 Sqn “First Supersonics”. Two more Squadrons followed suit, namely No. 47 Sqn “Black Archers” and No. 223 Sqn “Tridents” (of which the latter operated the MiG-23MF interceptor aircraft before conversion).
The IAF began to upgrade the platform to the UPG standard (equivalent to the MiG-29SMT), with additional state of the art avionics and an Electronic Warfare suite. Earlier this year in January, the government had proposed another upgrade programme, UPG2, to enhance the aircraft capabilities by incorporating an AESA radar. India currently operates 67 such airframes.