Running low on squadron strength, additional kits to be supplied to HAL for making Sukhoi fighters

by Manu Pubby

BANGALORE: India is turning to old military partner Russia as it scrambles to close gaps in its combat aircraft strength with top officials confirming that procurement of a new squadron of Su-30MKI jets is under process, besides advanced talks on an additional squadron for MiG-29UPG fighters.

With the squadron strength coming dangerously low – it is expected to dip below 30 this year against the sanctioned 42 – these additional jets will be vital for the air force that is retiring all its older generation MiG 21 fighters.

“We have got an official request from the Indian side to supply 18 more kits of the Su-30MKI. This request came in January and now we are preparing our commercial offer,” Anatoly G Punchuk, Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation said.

He added that advanced talks were on for the upgradation of the already ordered fleet of 272 Su-30MKI jets.

On the additional MiGs, the Russian side said that commercial proposal has been sent to India and the two sides will take things forward after a response from New Delhi. “We have got an official request for the supply of 21 planes from the Indian side, two of which are trainers. We have forwarded the commercial proposals and are waiting for a response. The planes have all necessary infrastructure and support in India as well as pilots who are very familiar with it,” the Russian official said.

As reported by ET, the plan to acquire 21 additional aircraft to make a new squadron of MiG-29 jets that were first purchased in the 1980s is expected to cost the Indian exchequer less than Rs 6,000 crore.

This would come to `285 crore per jet that would include weapon systems, training and other supporting equipment required for a new squadron. The negotiations are being carried out under the government-to-government pact with Russia.

The Air Force currently operates three squadrons of the Russian fighter jets that are being upgraded in house at its Base Repair Depot. While the multi-role jets have been operating since the 1980s, the air force had signed a Rs 3,850 crore deal in 2008 to upgrade the entire fleet and give it a life extension.