Depleted IAF forced to fly vintage aircraft

NEW DELHI: The crash of an ageing MiG-27 fighter jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in Jodhpur today has yet again raised a question mark on the need to operate such vintage aircraft.

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 13

The crash of an ageing MiG-27 fighter jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in Jodhpur today has yet again raised a question mark on the need to operate such vintage aircraft.

For the IAF, operating the 1970s MiG-27 is a fait accompli — that is to keep flying outdated fighter jets just to maintain a minimum level in terms of numbers.

As of now, the IAF has three MiG-27 squadrons (14-16 planes in each). The IAF is at its lowest strength in a decade at just 33 squadrons against the mandated 42 to tackle a simultaneous two-front attack from Pakistan and China.

The Soviet-era MiG-27 jets are slated to be phased out in batches from the IAF in 2018. They are currently on an extended life — much beyond the flying capacity of the aircraft. Russia stopped flying these planes in 1994. One of the MiG-27 squadrons was phased out last year. Since 2007, a total of 11 MiG-27s have crashed, the parliamentary standing committee on defence said in its report tabled in Parliament on May 3.

Former Vice-Chief of the IAF Air Marshal PK Barbora (retd) says: “There have been engine problems with MiG-27, which no one has been able to rectify. Hence, we had stopped upgrading it after two squadrons.”

Last year, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had said all MIG-27s that had not been upgraded would be phased out in the next couple of years after the induction of Rafale jets and the indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft “Tejas”. The MiG-27 along with the MiG-21 is one of the oldest aircraft in IAF’s fleet.

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