Russian help to tide over fighter aircraft shortage

IAF officials said that Russia had agreed to upgrade these aircraft— manufactured in the 1980s but lying unused for a long time— so that they can be at par with the existing three squadrons of MiG-29s that the IAF is upgrading at the moment. Reuters file photo.

India's trusted ally Russia has once again come to its rescue by offering to sell 21 MiG-29s jets after suitably upgrading these fighter aircraft.

An Indian Air Force team that was in Russia last month to inspect these aircraft, found them satisfactory. The team submitted a positive report to the Air Headquarters, sources told DH.

Though 42 squadrons are the sanctioned strength of IAF, the force currently has 31 squadrons including six number-plated squadrons of MiG-21 and MiG-27 that are being phased out.

Even with the timely induction of 36 Rafale aircraft and 40 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, the squadron strength wouldn't come anywhere close to the sanctioned one unless more new aircraft is inducted.

While a fresh process has been initiated to buy 114 fighter jets through a global tender (six companies responded), the Russian offer has come as a stop-gap solution to the crisis.

IAF officials said that Russia had agreed to upgrade these aircraft— manufactured in the 1980s but lying unused for a long time— so that they can be at par with the existing three squadrons of MiG-29s that the IAF is upgrading at the moment.

The upgraded MiG-29s that are being upgraded by the IAF's 11 Base Repair Depot at Ojhar near Nasik has multi-function display, air-to-air refueling capability enhancing its endurance and the ability to take off within five minutes after spotting an enemy aircraft.

It carries weapons for air-to-air, air-to-ground and anti-shipping operations.

Similar capabilities are expected in the 21 jets, if New Delhi and Moscow can thrash out a commercial contract from the Russian offer.

An IAF officer said that the initial price offered by the Russians was good but more discussions would be held.

On a separate issue, IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal Anil Khosla clarified that in previous government-to-government contract with the USA and Russia, there were no integrity clause (anti-corruption rules) as the framework of such G2G deals was institutionalised over a long period of time.

He was responding to media queries in the context of the controversial Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal as the critics of the deal claimed that the Narendra Modi government dropped such a provision in the Rafale deal in order to aid Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence, which is one of the offset partners in the deal.

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Russian help to tide over fighter aircraft shortage

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