New Delhi: Russian made MiG-29 fighter has been with the Indian Air Force (IAF) for over three decades and is still considered a formidable fighter. Compared to MiG-21 and MiG-27, the MiG-29's operational record is good. MiG-29 was developed by the Mikoyan design bureau, Russia as an air superiority fighter during the 1970s. Though designed for combat, MiG-29s have been served as multi-role fighters capable of performing a number of different operations.

MiG-29: Past

MiG 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, said a report.

India was the first international customer of the MiG-29. The Indian Air Force (IAF) placed an order for more than 66 MiG-29s in 1980 while the aircraft was still in its initial development phase. Since its induction into the IAF in 1985, the aircraft has undergone a series of modifications with the addition of new avionics, sub-systems, turbofan engines and radars.

MiG-29s were 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.

The Indian Air Force purchased 78 MiG-29 fighters since the 1980s and the fleet currently totals over 60 aircraft, as per reports. Three squadrons operate the MiG-29. In 2009, the Indian Air Force began an upgrade of its MiG-29 fleet to equip it with new electronics, radar and the capability to fire air-to-ground weapons.

MiG-29: Present

Along with MiG-29, MiG-21 was the front-line fighter of IAF till the induction of the Su-30MKI aircraft. Tejas Fighter should have replaced MiG-21 fleet, and Sukhoi along with upgraded MiG-29 were to serve as front-line fighters.

According to the information available in the public domain, the IAF currently has around eleven squadrons of the Su-30MKI, three each of the MiG-29 and Mirage 2000, six of the Jaguar and six of the MiG-21.

Tough MiG planes have given a lot of problems to IAF, the complaints are least with MiG-29. Some 120-odd MiG-21s continue to be in service. These will be retired in phases till 2021-2022. The IAF will phase out nine squadrons of the MiG-21 and 2 MiG-27 over the next 5 years. Two squadrons of Rafale fighters, two of the LCA Tejas and two more Sukhoi-30MKI are to be added by then, making the number of 28 squadrons by 2022, a report published in The Tribune said.

The MiG-27 and the MiG-21 are one of the the oldest in the IAF inventory. The MiG-21 and MiG-27 squadrons have been in decline and the MiG-23 has been phased out completely. The IAF will phase out nine squadrons of the MiG-21 and 2 MiG-27 over the next 5 years.

MiG-29: Future

IAF will get the MiG-29 fighters upgraded to the latest standards by Russia, and get them at virtually throwaway prices, reportedly Rs 200 crore per piece. They will augment the 62 MiG-29 fighters that are in the IAF's fleet which are also being upgraded to give them an all-weather multi-role capability.

Indian Air Force (IAF) is reportedly pushing a proposal for acquiring 33 new combat aircraft including 21 MiG-29s and 12 Sukhoi 30s. The Indian Air Force was reportedly looking for an "emergency shipment" of 21 MiG-29 fighters from Russia to make up for falling squadron strength.

IAF is said to be in advance talks with Russia for an urgent procurement of MiG-29 fighters that can be delivered at a relatively short notice. The plan to acquire 21 additional aircraft to make a new squadron of MiG 29 has been discussed in detail and is expected to cost the Indian exchequer less than Rs 6,000 crore. Some reports claim that a MiG-29 bought from Russian stocks would cost three times below what Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) charges for a freshly assembled Sukhoi Su-30MKI and five times below the reported cost for a Rafale.