From modern to vintage: new expansion of Indian fighter jet fleet

In a span of several days, Indian Air Force (IAF) confirmed an intention to purchase a number of new fighter jet aircraft, including refurbished Soviet-made Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29s. It also considers buying more Dassault Rafales.

According to the Indian media, the long-negotiated order for MiG-29s is set to be placed by December 2020. Indian Air Force will acquire 21 Soviet-made jets that were left in an unfinished state since the 80s, but are going to be upgraded to the latest standard. A study on the abandoned airframes found them to be in good condition.  

“We have completed the discussions with Russia. We are getting the MiG-29s at a very good price. We will soon finalise it. The order for the 12 additional Su-30 MKI will be placed with HAL after this,” an unnamed source within the Air Force is quoted by Indian news site the Print. 

Su-30s will be built by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) on licence, while MiG-29s are set to be assembled in Russia, by upgrading the yet-unflown vintage airframes. 

In addition to that, on October 5, 2020, IAF Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria said that they were considering an acquisition of more Rafale fighter jets from the French manufacturer Dassault, to complement 36 jets of the type that are expected to be operational by 2023.

They could be a follow-up to 83 HAL Tejas, domestically produced light fighter jets, to be ordered soon. The decision of whether to continue purchasing Rafales or produce a domestic medium combat aircraft is currently under discussion, according to Bhadauria. 

The bulk of India’s fighter jet fleet is currently composed of 261 Su-30MKI fighters, the majority of them built by HAL. IAF also operates 65 MiG-29s, made in the 70s and 80s, and recently received the first batch of Rafales.  

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