The History of Migs with Indian Air Force

Indian Air Force has been operating Migs for the last 5 decades and this has seen over 5 Mig-types to have seen service with Indian Air Force, in various roles ranging from Air Superiority, High Altitude Interception, Reconnaissance Roles to Air Defence. In this post, I will discuss the Migs of Indian Air Force including the failed bids which did not allow more Migs to enter service with Indian Air Force.

A. Mig-21:

The glorious history of Mig-21 with Indian Air Force started with the induction of 9 Mig-21 (Type 74 and Type 76) in 1963–64, prior to the 1965 Indo-Pak War. They were first inducted into the No.28 Squadrons “First Supersonics” whose pilots were trained at Russia in operating this highly specialized aircraft which was to serve as a superfast high-altitude interceptor, but for Indian Air Force, the Mig-21 was customized even better.

India has used almost 900 Mig-21 of varying types with the Bison variant being the latest of all of them which still persists in Indian service even though the base variant was inducted almost 5 decades back. Mig-21 Type 77 saw extensive service in 1971 Indo-Pak War where it scored multiple aerial victories against PAF F-86 “Sabres”, Shenyang F-6 and F-104 “Starfighter”. It was also used in the classic ground attack raid against the Governor’s house in Dacca after which he was forced to find refuge under UN Office. Mig-21 MF saw service during the Kargil War where their performance was lacklustre after a Mig-21 was shot down by a Pakistani Stinger Man-Portable Air Defense Missile.

Mig-21 yet again proved its worth after the “Bis” variant intercepted and shot down a Pakistan Navy Atlantique Reconnaissance Aircraft with an R-60 missile. The most modern iteration of Mig-21 was used once again during the recent India-Pakistan Standoff after Balakot airstrike where a Mig-21 Bison shot down a PAF F-16 Fighter Jet before being itself shot down after it crossed the LoC. Currently, more than 80% of all Indian Pilots have flown or trained on Mig-21 and the platform has been wrongly taunted as the “Widow-Maker” or “Flying Coffin” which has been attributed to it due to its high crash rate.

B. Mig-25:

On May 1997 the peaceful skies over Islamabad, the vibrant capital of Pakistan were buzzed by an unwelcomed guest. The unwelcomed guest buzzed through the skies at a speed of Mach 2 (Twice the Speed of Sound) flying at an altitude of 65,000 ft. (where air pressure is 17 times lower than at sea level). The Pakistan Air Force immediately scrambled up their F-16 Falcon Fighter Jets to take on the cheerful intruder only to realize they were not competent enough.

The intruder powered up by two massive Tumansky R-15BD-300 engines putting out ~7500 kgf thrust immediately put itself on the full throttle speeding up away into the skies and by the time F-16s could get up to that altitude the intruder had speeded up away towards the Indian Sky, some 125 km away. An observer would not have even spotted the aircraft but only heard the loud repeated thunderclap heard due to the sonic boom caused by the intruder.

The intruder was none other than the “Garuda” or the designation of the Mig-25RB Supersonic Interceptor/Reconnaissance Aircraft which discreetly entered service with Indian Air Force in 1981 and was kept as a closely guarded secret by No.102 Squadron, nicknamed Trisonics, with Wg Cdr A. Singh as its first Commanding Officer (CO).

Only a few handpicked pilots were allowed to fly this lean and mean Flying Machine The Garudas could climb up to such a height where you could see the curvature of the Earth and higher than any aircraft in the enemy inventory could and fly faster than any enemy aircraft.

This led to IAF flying multiple top-secret reconnaissance missions over hostile territory over enemy skies taking on their interceptors and Air Defense Batteries with impunity and tapping on High-Resolution Pictures of Military Establishments and Electronic Emissions.

Mig-25 had no match in South Asia and even after it was retired by Indian Air Force almost a decade back, its legacy and legendary with Indian Air Force still survives as an All-Watching Eye who would be snooping on you without ever letting you know.

C. Mig-23:

Indian Air Force operated two versions of Mig-23. The Mig-23BN was called the “Vijay” while the Mig-23MF was called the “Rakshak”. Mig-23BN was the ground attack version with a laser rangefinder in the nose, a raised seat, cockpit external armour plate and large low pressure tires while Mig-23MF was the air defence variant fitted with an R-29 jet engine, a J-Band radar, a Sirena-3 RWR system, Doppler navigation and a small IRST sensor pod under the cockpit. Mig-23 were originally bought by India to combat the Pakistani F-16 Fighter Jets as it was the first jet in Indian Service to be equipped with Beyond Visual Range Capabilities. Mig-23 took part during the Operation Safed Sagar after which they were phased out in favour of Mig-27 and Mig-29.

D. Mig-27:

Mig-27 has been one of the main strike aircraft of the Indian Air Force. With its sophisticated avionics and weapon computers, it is capable of delivering a variety of loads in different modes of attack. A very stable weapons platform with good forward visibility and all around view, it can carry precision munitions guided by TV/laser and also A4Ms for self-defence.

Mig-27 is a direct step up of the older Mig-23 platform and also was a problem-child of Indian Air Force being the direct reason of over 10% crashes within a span of 1996–2001. In 1985 first HAL assembled Mig-27M Strike aircraft was officially handed over to the Indian air force in its Nashik Plant were the jets were assembled. Over 120 Mig-27 were upgraded by HAL with Radar warning receiver (RWR), Multi-function display & HUD, Auto-pilot, Laser ranger and target market seeker (LRTMS), for dropping laser-guided bombs , Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system, for identifying friendlies (and letting friendlies know about your presence) , and Israeli (ELTA) jammer & counter-measures (flares) dispensing system. Currently, only the Mig-27 UPG variant remains in service with Indian Air Force which will be replaced the next decade. It saw service during Operation Safed Sagar where one Mig-27 flamed out and the pilot had to eject.


E. Mig-29:

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.

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). Mig-29 have seen operational service during Operation Safed Sagar where they were used to provide air defence to Mirage 2000 Fighter Jets who were dropping precision munitions over Pakistani Positions. Apart from that, it has been used in various exercises like Iron Fist and Vayu Shakti.

Failed Bids:

A. Mig-31:

Mig-31 were once offered to Indian Air Force when India retired its MiG-25RB/RUs which Indian Air Force used extensively for ELINT and SIGINT Operations sometimes in Pakistan Airspace and Chinese Airspace also.

Indian Air Force was the first Air Force to have its pilots evaluate the Mig-31 “Foxhound” as a High-Speed Interceptor Aircraft. These Mig-31 were offered to India in 1999 and Air Marshal Anil Chopra became the first pilot outside Russia to fly this type at the at Nizhnie Novgorod in Russia. However, Indian Air Force showed a lack of interest and instead focussed on the Flanker platform out of which the Su-30MKI was born.

B. Mig-35:

Though meeting al the ASQR requirements during the botched MMRCA Competiton, Mig-35 which were once evaluated by Indian Air Force were not inducted. Mig-35 is a step-up of the Mig-29 platform and even though it is contending for the new 110-fighter jet contract for Indian Air Force, it is less likely that they would secure the order as IAF seems to go with more Rafales rather than be compliant on an untested Battle Platform.




Harsh B Mishra is a writer on DefenceUpdate, he also loves to write on Quora. You can follow him on Quora for more interesting knowledge on special forces.

Source:- Harsh Mishra Quora

You may also like...