IAF wants to accept Russian offer for 21 surplus MiG-29 fighters - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 12 February 2019

IAF wants to accept Russian offer for 21 surplus MiG-29 fighters

These 21 fighters were built in the 1980s by MiG, but the Russian Air Force could not afford them

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 13th Feb 19

The understrength Indian Air Force (IAF), already making do by extending the life of its MiG-29, Mirage 2000 and Jaguar fleet, is now evaluating an unexpected windfall from Moscow – for a brand new squadron of upgraded MiG-29 multi-role fighters. 

These 21 fighters were built in the 1980s by Russian firm, RAC MiG, for the Russian Air Force, which eventually could not muster up the money to pay for them.

For three decades, these aircraft have lain unused; their wings stored separate from their bodies. Now, the IAF has been invited to buy them at the price they were built – which is below $25 million (Rs 175 crore). That is cheaper even than the Tejas Mark 1 fighter.

“A high-level IAF team has returned from Russia, where we found the MiG-29s to be in excellent condition. They could make an excellent addition to our fleet and we are submitting a positive report,” said a senior air marshal who is directly involved in air force acquisitions.

The IAF inducted the MiG-29 in the late-1980s after the United States supplied the Pakistan Air Force the F-16 Falcon fighter. Since then, the IAF has operated three MiG-29 squadrons: called “First Supersonics”, “Black Archers” and “Tridents”. Two of these squadrons are based in Adampur, Punjab and the third in Jamnagar, Gujarat.

The IAF’s existing 69 MiG-29s are currently undergoing a $900 million mid-life upgrade to the MiG-29UPG standard. While the old MiG-29s were mainly twin-engine, air-superiority fighters, optimised for air-to-air combat with enemy fighters, the far more capable MiG-29UPG is a “multi-role fighter” that is also equipped and armed to strike ground targets. 

In addition, with the addition of large capacity fuel tanks and mid-air refuelling capability, the IAF regards its MiG-29UPGs as long-range, multi-role fighters.

“These are without question the most capable MiG-29s flying anywhere in the world,” said the IAF air marshal.

Russia has confirmed that it will upgrade the 21 MiG-29s now being offered to the same standard as IAF’s other three MiG-29UPG squadrons. That would add another $15 million or so to each fighter’s price.

In addition to the IAF’s fleet of MiG-29UPGs, the Indian Navy operates the MiG-29K/KUB variant off the aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya. This variant will also fly from the INS Vikrant, when it is delivered in 2020-21.


  1. Why not order more SUKHOI MKI from HAL.

  2. hi ajai sir

    AFAIK there are 34 of them availablle that were oncve offered to Algeria why doesnt IAF go for all, also there is 18 Mig29 in malaysia which it is finding difficult to operrate and maintain, IAF can buy these too.

    Another fact there are too many Mig29s around the world that remain unused or under utilized IAF can grab them, just like 12 Mirage 2000-S in Qatar that have become excess after Qatar bought F15SE, Typhoons and Rafales

    expect answers


    Joydeep Ghosh

  3. INS Vikramaditya - Initial cost $900m. Final cost $2.3B

    1. Exactly. We like to buy second hand stuff. Penny wise, pound foolish.

  4. The Air Force has been reduced to scrounge around the world to ensure that they can fulfill the task given to them by this nation.

    All this due to vested interests of corrupt persons of the Gandhi family ably and willingly supported by people like Prashant Bhushan and the writer of this blog.

  5. Bad Idea!! ($40 million) 280 Crore each for 21 Mig 29UPGs means 5880 Crore!! Are they not better off buying an additional squadron of Tejas Mark 1 in FOC configuration to build up domestic capabilities and keep the HAL production line active? Alternatively they could also order the additional squadron of Su-30MKI's.

    1. How long will HAL take to deliver one additional squadron? Two years at the present rate. These fighters are ready, just waiting to be assembled and fitted out. Moreover the IAF is familiar with the type. So, to make up the numbers, it's a very good idea.

    2. These Mig ighters are not ready. It will take a year or 2 to prep this to UPG standard. Do you trust the Russians with numbers after the Vikramaditya fiasco (990 million to 2.3 billion)? HAL produces 10/12 sukhoi's per year. If the order is given now it will take around the same time to add another squadron. They can also place orders for 8 Sukhoi's that were lost in crashes. All these are quick fix solutions which are not going to help. Alternatively they can use the money to buy more Rafales or Tejas. Throwing money on older generation fighters is not going to help. Whatever budget the IAF has should be used in Standardizing the fighter fleet to only 3 types (Sukhoi, Rafales and Tejas).This will help in the long run.

  6. Good, no other choice . They should buy all 34 if possible.
    Then buy Qatari Mirage 2000 too.

    Speaks of the mess left behind by UPA in not deciding in 10 years. Hope their defence and finance ministers are punished by God.

    NDA2 has shown that it takes just 18 months from start to finish to procure jets, if there is will and no corruption. (Irrespective what ‘specialists’ write)

  7. No a bad option, but how reliable will these aircraft be?

    In the meantime PAF will introduce JF-17 Block III, with enhanced capabilities, next year. Current indications are that they will order 4 squadrons of these, resulting in 10+ JF-17 squadrons. This will further reduce the capability gap. I wish 56" inch Chest had played straight.


  8. NSR says ---

    Please explore this link...


    These Mig-29A upgrade option may be quick replacement candidate if they are done in Russia and these may come in handy as India faces emergency...

    But the Su-34 Fullback is the successor to SU-24 and is a formidable multi-role fighter bomber...
    It wreaked havoc in Syria against ISI and Al Nusra front, SDF, etc

    It is a cousin to SU-30MKI and many things in common and so it is very easy to manufacture in India and is also very cheap too...
    Give 36 Nos to Russia with condition for full TOT and 72 nos to Indian HAL and get to the needed fighter numbers quickly...
    Get full TOT for this aircraft as Russia has no buyers for SU-34s...

    Other Mig-29A airframes from other countries may have too much wear and tear... not a good idea to upgrade them...

    India badly needs Mig-29UPG and SU-34 Fullback as Jaguar engine makes it very difficult to penetrate and maneuver against the latest generation air and missile defense systems...

  9. Opinion of a senior air marshal is not an official opinion of Air Force. Nice try

  10. The upgraded version would be $40 million per piece no?? If so it would cost us twice as much as a Tejas. This is how Russia lured us into buying the Gorshkov aka Vikramaditya. we shouldn't fall into the same trap again.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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