Mig-29 UPG:- India’s Lightweight Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft

Recently,The Indian Ministry of Defense cleared a long-pending deal to acquire 21 MiG-29 fighters from Russia, making it the first deal for these jets in over three decades.

The country will also buy 12 Su-30MKI jets from Moscow. India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the procurement on July 2 which includes the upgrade of 59 MiG-29 aircraft.

“While the MIG-29 procurement and upgradation from Russia is estimated to cost INR 7,418 crores ($992M), the Su-30 MKI will be procured from (HAL) Hindustan Aeronautics Limited at an estimated cost of INR 10,730 crore ($1.44B),” the MoD said in a statement.

India became the first export customer of MiG-29s in 1980 when it bought 66 of them. At the time of the order, the fighter was still in its initial development phase.

Mig-29 UPG

The MiG-29 is one of the IAF’s premier Air Defense fighters. Whilst always appreciated for its raw performance, the MiG-29 was not acquired in bulk or series produced in India. Among the primary reasons were the inability of MiG-MAPO to properly support the IAF during its initial service and their continued reluctance to share design data later (design data since the IAF intended to use for optimizing its operation in Indian conditions). Plus there were the spares parts issues caused by the fall of the Soviet Union.

The IAF ultimately, both on its own and with HALs help, started making a lot of the spares locally, and also took over a lot of the maintenance actions. IAF BRDs and their MiG capabilities

These helped raise the serviceability of the aircraft, IAF’s requirement of the MiG-29 fleet was to have each single seater aircraft fly at least 180 hrs/year, and 220-240 hours/year for the dual seaters. At the end of the day, the MiG-29 numbers remained at three squadrons, while the IAF transitioned en masse to the more capable Flanker series thereafter.

Mig-29s might have a reputation of being Troublesome and Maintenance prone but no doubt are is still one of the IAF’s premier Air Defense fighters in India and still, carry a fearsome reputation with them. With Nearly 110 Mig-29s operated by Indian Air Force and Indian Navy combined, India is the Second biggest operator of Mig-29s in the world after Russia

Today, the IAF fleet of MiG-29s is going through a customized upgrade, drawing on both the SMT upgrade package of MiG-MAPO plus unique India specific items such as a special DRDO developed Electronic Warfare suite. These will make the fighter a truly capable multi-role platform, and remove many of the earlier weaknesses of the aircraft – primarily centered around how its avionics/weapons systems were not user friendly.

Mig-29 Upgrade

With modern avionics, it can take on & defeat current generation aircraft, including the Block 50 F-16, when properly flown.

Its primary “deficits” were in terms of its older avionics and limited fuel capacity.The IAF upgrade, which is to SMT level and beyond, addresses these issues.
Mig-29 UPG is currently one of the most advance Mig-29s in the world. The mig-29 upgrade includes ZHUK-ME AESA radar, RD-33 series 3 turbofan engine, IFR probe, an advanced weapon control system and avionics.

With UPG upgrades , it has new databus 1553B standard to incorporate newer avionics , new mission computers, navigation system (RLG-INS w/GPS + possible Glonass module – Sagem’s Sigma95N), Stores Management System, new VRS (Video Recording System) plus DMG (Display Map Generator).

UPG have better Jamming Capabilities with Virgilius Family Jammers This very same suite is now on board on Eurofighter EF-2000. In fact, Virgilius was originally developed for the EF-2000’s IADS suite. Apart from the SPECTRA, this the only AESA-based airborne internal directional jamming system available for export.

Further there are plans to integrate Indian BVR ‘Astra’ , Bhramos missiles and Phazotron Zuke-AE (AESA) Radar , OLS and Laser guided Pods which will even make then more lethal .After transformation of MIG29 into MIG29UPG , they have transformed from Air-superiority fighter to Multi-role fighters .

Remember , our possible threats are Pakistan and China and not US .So our fighter is very good and far ahead than our neighbors in the Medium Class .

IAF MiG-29s versus PAF F-16s in 1999

The MiG-29s retained the edge throughout and are credited with chasing away PAF F-16s several times. The MiG-29s had a capability the PAF F-16s did not – BVR weapons with the AA-10 Alamo. And in WVR, they had Helmet Mounted Sights to cue their AA-8 missiles.

“Chased away PAF MiG-29s”. Quoted by Wing Commander PK Singh, Sq Ldr John,

Another famous incident during Kargil was when an IAF MiG-27 strike mission reportedly strayed across the Line of Control or was within range of a patrolling pair of F-16s. The PAF F-16s quickly sought to take advantage and target the MiG-27s but fled when the escorting MiG-29s moved in. A single MiG-29 locked onto both F-16s with its radar, causing the F-16s to break off the intercept. The formation included young Flt Lt Gaurav Chibber who was lost in a weather related, spatial disorientation caused crash in August 1999. He was decorated posthumously for his actions during the Kargil conflict.

In Kargil war, PAF fighters did fly Combat Air Patrols (CAP) during the conflict, they stayed well within Pakistani air space. On occasions, IAF MiG-29s armed with the deadly R-77 BVR air-to-air missiles were able to lock on to PAF F-16s, forcing the latter to disengage. In the absence of a PAF threat, the IAF was able to deliver numerous devastating strikes on intruder positions and supply dumps

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