The air-superiority fighter jet MiG-29 has gained in strength and ferocity after the latest upgrade, giving the Air Force that has been battling a shortage of warplanes a much-needed boost, officials have said.
The Russian origin aircraft is now capable of mid-air refuelling, compatible with the latest missiles and can launch multi-dimensional attacks, said Flight Lieutenant Karan Kohli, who is deployed at Adampur Air Force Station.
Even in the previous legacy version, the aircraft played an important role as the Air Force stamped its supremacy over the Pakistani Air Force during the Kargil War in 1999.
Last week, the upgraded MiG-29 showcased its combat capabilities at Admapur Air Force Station. The country will celebrate the Air Force Day on Monday.
“With the upgrade, as compared to previous legacy version of the MiG-29 bought under emergency clause in early 1980s, the fighter jets are capable of giving a befitting response,” said an official, asking not to be named, on how the warplane would perform in the event of a two-front war.
Flight Lieutenant Kohli said the upgraded MiG-29 also has multi-functional display or MFD, which shows critical flight details on a glass screen in front of the pilot.
On September 12, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said the force was reeling under a severe shortage of fighter aircraft. The IAF chief had said it currently has 31 squadrons of fighter jets against the sanctioned strength of 42.
“Even when we do have 42 squadrons, we will be below the combined numbers of two of our regional adversaries,” he had said.
The strategically important Adampur Air Force Station, 100 km from Pakistan and 250 km from the border with China, is now home to the upgraded MiG-29s.
The Air Force has three squadrons of MiG-29s, two of them at Adampur Air Force Station. One squadron comprises 16-18 aircraft.
Flight Lieutenant Kohli said the MiG-29 is a flexible aircraft and can take off almost vertically in full power. The upgraded MiG-29 can take off within five minutes of spotting a hostile jet trying to enter the Indian airspace and destroy it, he said.
“With air-to-air refuelling feature, the upgraded MiG-29 can cover larger distance as compared to the previous legacy aircraft and destroy the enemy,” said another IAF officer, who did not wish to be named.
“With the upgraded version, the range of the aircraft has improved a lot. Moreover, in the legacy aircraft, we were restricted to the certain dimension, but we can now do air-to-air, air-to-ground and anti-shipping operation,” said a pilot who flies the MiG aircraft.