Indian Air Force MiG-29 Medium Fighter and Apache attack gunship

Following a period of high tensions with China and a brief clash with Chinese forces in mid-June, which resulted in over 150 Indian casualties, the Indian Air Force has begun to conduct night patrols using two of its most capable combat aircraft from forward basses near the Sino-Indian border. India notably has the advantage of considerably more airbases near the border region than China has, and currently relies on the MiG-29UPG medium fighter and the AH-64E Apache attack helicopter to patrol the area. Group Captain A Rathi, senior fighter pilot at a forward airbase near the border, stated regarding the patrols: “Night operations have an inherent element of surprise. The IAF is fully trained and ready to undertake entire spectrum of operations in any environment with help of modern platforms and motivated personnel.”

India and China are currently separated by a 3,500 km long Line of Control, which serves as a de-facto border, with territorial disputes still ongoing. India’s small fleet of AH-64E Apache helicopters is notably optimised for high altitude operations, and the aircraft carry considerably more firepower than their Chinese rivals such as the Z-10. The MiG-29 is also better suited to high altitude operations than other Indian fighter classes such as the Rafale, which has a much lower flight ceiling, and the Russian supplied jets are capable of taking off from shorter runways than the heavier and more capable Su-30MKI which is likely why they was chosen for operations near the border. Defences at the border are set to be bolstered by one or more battalions of the S-400 long range surface to air missile system, which Russia has agreed to accelerate the delivery of to support India’s defences.

While China also deploys the S-400 and a number of very high end fighter classes such as the J-20 fifth generation platform, all S-400s and J-20s are deployed near its west coast meaning its Western Theatre Command which faces India is much less well defended. China’s deployment of J-16 fighters, however, can potentially pose a serious threat to Indian forces with the aircraft fielding advanced PL-15 long range air to air missiles, powerful AESA radars and stealth coatings which provide multiple advantages over the MiG-29. India for its part is considering augmenting its MiG-29s with the MiG-35 next generation fighter, which would likely replace the older jets in frontline deployments near the border and are similarly optimised for operations in such a theatre.