NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force has inked a deal to upgrade its 78 MiG-29 fighters to compensate for a rapid depletion of its fighter fleet.
Under the $800-million deal, signed recently with a consortium of Russia’s state-owned Rosboron export and United Aircraft Corporation, the IAF’s fleet of three squadrons of MiG-29 air superiority jets will get their service life extended from 25 to 40 years.
The IAF, which is currently phasing out MiG-21 and MiG-23 jets, has seen its strength plunging to an all-time low of 29 squadrons, as against its sanctioned strength of 45.
The force is also in the final stages of negotiating a 1.5-billion euro deal with French company Thales for upgrading 52 Mirage 2000H fighters to extend their service life by 25 years.
The MiG-29 upgrade will include installing beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, new Klimov-33 engines with digital fuel injection, Phazotron Zhuk-ME phased array radar, an all-glass cockpit and aerial refuelling prods.
Initially, two MiG-29s will be sent to Russia for prototype development and the rest will be upgraded in HAL’s Nashik-based Ozar plant.
“The upgradation will be completed by 2010,” a defence ministry official said.
The agreement also stipulates the setting up of a service centre in India for the MiG-29. This centre will also look after the navy’s carrier-borne MiG-29K fighters, the first of which will be inducted by the end of 2008.