After four glorious decades of service, Indian Air Force will bid adieu to its swing-wing MiG-27 fighter jets that played a stellar role in the Kargil conflict.
The swansong sortie will take place on Friday at the Air Force Station Jodhpur where the last MiG-27 UPG squadron (29 Squadrons or Scorpios) is based.
With an extremely powerful R-29B engine that generated 11,500 kg thrust and variable-geometry wings (wings that swing), the formidable strike aircraft nicknamed Bahadur would fly like a sharp arrow. In its hey-day, there were not many that could chase it.
The jet's variable-geometry wings allowed a pilot to change the wing sweep angle while flying as per the mission requirements.
The IAF exploited the Floggers-J (as it is popularly called) to the hilt during the Kargil conflict when 9 Squadron pilots took to the skies almost daily with these birds.
They were used in bombing Muntho Dhalo, one of Pakistan's biggest logistics base and ammunition dump besides flying in numerous ground attack missions striking the enemy targets accurately with bombs and rockets.
Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa was flying a MiG-27 when he experienced an engine flame-out and forced to eject in the enemy territory. He was captured by the Pakistan Army, which released him after a week.
Inducted in the service in the 1980s, MiG-27s were used for ground attack, valley operations, and photo-reconnaissance. One squadron was used even for a maritime role.
But with the age catching up, the government upgraded two squadrons (10 Squadron and 29 Squadron) with a new avionics package while the rest was being phased out.
The last of the older generation MiG-27 ML flew from Hashimara airbase in December 2017 while the upgraded units had two additional years for the farewell flight. The 29 Squadron will now be number-plated on March 31, 2020.
Both MiG-23 and MiG-27 belong to the same category of swing-wing aircraft though the later one has better avionics and weapon package. The MiG-23s were phased out earlier by the IAF.
With India retiring its ageing MiG fighters, the squadron strength is on a steady decline from the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons. While two squadrons of Rafale were purchased off the shelf from France, the Defence Ministry initiated a process to buy 114 medium multi-role aircraft through a global tender.