Chandigarh, October 16
The Indian Air Force is planning to undertake a second life extension programme on its fleet of MiG-29 frontline fighter jets, which will enhance their service span from 40 years to 50 years.
Inducted into the IAF in 1986, the first life extension programme was undertaken in the mid-2000s. The then Defence Minister, AK Antony had stated in Parliament that the MiG-29s’ technical life was being extended from 25 years to 40 years to meet the IAF’s operational requirements.
According IAF sources, the enhanced technical life of the MiG-29 aircraft will begin expiring from 2025 onwards and in view of the depleting squadron strength and slow rate of inductions, it is imperative to determine that for how long this fleet can continue to remain effectively in service.
The project will be executed at IAF’s No.11 Base Repair Depot near Nashik, which is mandated with the repair and overhaul of Russian origin fighter aircraft. Only Indian firms will be permitted to participate in the programme.
The project involves study and examination of the aircraft’s airframe, engines, avionics, sub-assemblies and other aggregates, development and analysis of technical and flight data, structural integrity checks, corrosion removal, repair and strengthening of certain load bearing areas and some structural modifications, sources said.
The IAF operates about 66 of the Soviet/Russian origin fighters in three squadrons. Two of them are based at Adampur and Jamnagar, while the third has recently moved to Srinagar to replace a MiG-21 squadron that was phased out. In addition, the Navy also procured 35 MiG-29s for its fleet air arm.
The MiG-29s went in for extensive modification and upgradation during the second half of the last decade, which significantly enhanced their combat capability. Christened the MiG-29 UPG, this included modifications to the airframe along with new avionics, radar, missiles, weapon control systems and electronic warfare suite.
The IAF used its MiG-29s extensively during the 1999 Kargil War to provide fighter escort for Mirage 2000s attacking high altitude targets with laser-guided bombs as well as for carrying out combat air patrols. MiG-29s were also deployed in Ladakh to counter Chinese aircraft during the face-off along the Line of Actual Control in 2020.
According to reports, India is in the process of procuring 21 additional MiG-29s from Russia which would enable replacement of earlier losses and raise another squadron. These would be developed and upgraded from airframes built earlier but which never entered service.
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