This week saw the beginning of the modernization of Russia’s MiG-29 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force. The first six such planes will be upgraded at the Sokol plant located in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod.
Shortly after, another 63 aircraft will be modernized at Indian enterprises. The modernization is aimed at extending the service life of the MiGs, purchased by India in the early 1990s. The upgraded aircraft are expected to be in service in the next ten years.
Negotiations on the supplies of the then-most advanced MiG-29s to the Indian Air Force started in the mid-1980s. A total of 80 such planes were delivered to India between 1985 and 1995. India’s top brass saw the delivery as a response to Pakistan purchasing the US-made F-16A fighter jets at the time. This is why New Delhi attached paramount importance to clinching a deal with Russia on supplying MiG-29s to India.
The modernization will see MiG-29s turn into MiG-29UPG aircraft, in line with a 900-million-dollar contract that was signed in 2009. Thanks to the modernization program, the warplanes’ service life is expected to stand at 40 years.
The program also envisages making the upgraded planes’ equipment compatible with the MiG-29K/KUB deck-based fighters that are supplied to India in accordance with an agreement on the modernization of the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier. The maiden flight of the upgraded MiG-29UPG fighter took place in February 2011.
The modernization program’s further goal is to upgrade the MiG-29UPG so that it can comply with the technical characteristics of the MiG-29k and MiG-29KUB fighters that are currently supplied to the Indian Navy.
Equipped with air-to-surface guided weapons, the MiG-29’s modernized version will also have air-refueling equipment on board, something that will enable to expand the aircraft’s operating range to 1,500 kilometers.
Ilya Kramnik, The Voice of Russia
Apr, 4, 2013