IAF plans to extend service life of MiG-29 by 40 to 50 years

The Indian Air Force intends to extend the second life of its fleet of MiG 29 front-line fighter jets, extending their operational life from 40 to 50 years.

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The Indian Air Force intends to extend the second life of its fleet of MiG 29 front-line fighter jets, extending their operational life from 40 to 50 years.

 

The first life extension programme was started in the middle of the 2000s after being inducted into the IAF in 1986. The MiG-29’s technical life was being increased from 25 to 40 years to satisfy the operational needs of the IAF, the then-Defense Minister AK Antony had said in Parliament.

 

IAF sources claim that the MiG-29 aircraft’s extended technical life would end in 2025, thus it’s critical to figure out how long this fleet can continue to be useful in service given the poor rate of inductions and dwindling squadron strength.

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The project will be carried out at IAF’s No. 11 Base Repair Depot, which is tasked with overhauling and repairing fighter aircraft of Russian origin, close to Nashik. Only Indian firms will be allowed to take part in the initiative.

 

According to sources talking to The Tribune, the project entails studying and examining the airframe, engines, avionics, subassemblies, and other aggregates of the aircraft, developing and analysing technical and flight data, conducting structural integrity checks, removing corrosion, repairing and strengthening some load bearing areas, and making some structural modifications.

During the latter half of the previous decade, the MiG-29s underwent considerable modifications and upgrades that significantly improved their combat capability. The airframe was modified, and additional avionics, radar, missiles, weapon control systems, and an electronic warfare suite were added. This aircraft was given the name MiG-29 UPG.

These upgrades to the jet allowed it to perform ground attack roles as well, before the upgrades the MiG 29 was an air superiority fighter with just air-to-air capabilities.

Rafale and MiG 29 are the only to fighters operated by the IAF that have an inbuilt electronic warfare suite.

During the 1999 Kargil War, the IAF made considerable use of its MiG-29s to conduct combat air patrols as well as escorts as fighter escorts for Mirage 2000s striking high-altitude targets with laser-guided bombs.

Additionally, MiG-29s were stationed in Ladakh to combat Chinese aircraft during the 2020 airstrike near the Line of Actual Control and have proven to be beneficial as they performed several missions like electronic reconnaissance and combat air patrol as their medium weight allows great performance at higher altitudes as it can take off with maximum payloads of fuel and ammunition.

Three squadrons of approximately 66 fighters of Soviet/Russian origin are operated by the IAF. Two of them are based in Adampur and Jamnagar, and the third just relocated to Srinagar to take the place of a phased-out MiG-21 squadron. For its fleet air arm, the Navy also purchased 35 MiG-29s.

According to rumours, India is in the midst of buying 21 more MiG-29s from Russia, which would allow it to form another squadron and replace past losses. These would be created and improved upon from earlier airframes that were produced but were never put into service.