Why doesn’t India replace the fleets of the MiG-29 as it is decades old?
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
The aircraft is effectively 33 years old and still remain an effective weapons platform to this day. Indian review of the MIG-29 does show that the jet structures is still sound and worthwhile the upgrades it needs to performance for another 10–15 years. While the upgrades continues, India will be searching for a new jet to replace the legacy jets including the Fulcrum in 10–15 years time. The Fulcrum has shown great service in the IAF and that image in which it was successfully used extensively during the 1999 Kargil War in Kashmir by the Indian Air Force to provide fighter escort for Mirage 2000s attacking targets with laser-guided bombs. According to Indian sources, two MiG-29s from the IAF’s Black Archer squadron gained missile lock on two of the Pakistani F-16s, which were patrolling close to the border to prevent any incursions by Indian aircraft, but did not engage them because no official declaration of war had been issued. The Indian MiG-29s were armed with beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missiles whereas the Pakistani F-16s were not equipped at the time with AIM-120 Amraam.
The MiG-29’s good operational record prompted India to sign a deal with Russia between 2005—2006 to upgrade all 62 jets for over $900 million. Under the specific arrangement, Russia supplies upgrade kits to Indian technological professionals, and MiG Corporation specialists provide the necessary advice and technical assistance and know-how required for installation.
Now fully operational, this MIG-29UPG sports the much larger centreline fuel tank of 1800 litres, extending the range to nearly 3,000km. With the introduction of the R-77 Adder missiles on the MIG-29UPG, it is now one of the most capable interceptor in the region.
The upgraded MIG-29UPG has helped reduce maintenance cost by as much as 40%.The improvements can be seen from the unpainted parts on this flying MIG-29 as it under goes flight testing
Believe it or not, MiG-29UPGs are THE best BVR combat aircraft in IAF service. D-29 EW system which has been integrated with newly upgraded MiG-29UPGs is probably the best EW system in this part of the world.
D-29 is an integrated EW warfare system carried internally by MiG-29s. It’s an derivative of UEWS EW developed for LCA. Difference between UEWS and D-29 is that the later uses active phased array TRX- In simple terms AESA antenna. Coupled with DRFM, AESA antenna drastically improves EW system’s effectiveness against BVR missiles (like AIM-120s deployed by PAF F-16s).
After receiving the upgrades, the combat readiness of the MiG-29UPG will attain a performance level similar to that of the naval MiG-29K fighter aircraft. Under this deal, the MiGs incorporated the following:
- Capable of deploying the R-77RVV-AE (AA-12 ‘Adder’) air-to-air missile which was successfully tested in 1998.
- Gain the ability to attack ground and sea targets at any time of day and in any weather conditions as well as carrying the interception and air defence role with autonomous capabilities.
- Integration of the Zhuk-ME airborne radar system.
- Ability to use the advance subsonic anti-ship missile Kh-35E (AS-20 Kayak).
- Introduced the OLS-UEM IRST sensor with the laser, thermal-imaging and television capabilities.
- increased the range by 40% to 2,100 km on internal fuel.
- The upgrade improve maintenance which helped reduced maintenance cost by as much as 40%.
- Using the Indian licence manufacture of the new RD-33 series 3 turbofan engines.
- Introduction of new weapon control system.
- Improved cockpit ergonomics with enhanced HOTAS design, two large and two smaller monochrome LCD.
- Introduction of a retractable inflight refuelling probe, similar to Malaysian MIG-29N and Russian MIG-29SMT.
- Weapons load was increased to 4,500 kg on six underwing and one ventral hard points similar to the MIG-35.
- Secure datalink system.
- Life increased to another 15 years of use.
- Introduction of a bigger centreline tank from 1500 litres to 1800 litres tank extending range toward 3,000km.
The MIG-29 is still a modern fighter and has a lot more of capabilities in them. It is still a sound and robust machine that the IAF has come to respect and appreciate. As of 2012, the Indian UPG version was considered the most advanced MiG-29 version in the world.
The major improvements apart from the avionics and weapons suite is the internal fuel capacity which was increased by introducing a modified bulge at the rear of the canopy as seen here. This has effectively eliminated its achilles heel with its short range that was named as the fighter that could only defend its air base. With the increased range, the MIG-29UPG is a fine and very capable fighter.
Conclusion- IAF MiG-29 hasn’t lost its edge yet. MiG-29s are still a force to be reckoned with. They might remain in service until late 2030s.