A MiG-29SMT (Image © Russian Aircraft Corporation)

Indian Air Force MiG-29s best on the block

The Indian Air Force is well underway of getting the best MiG-29s – NATO-name Fulcrum – one can find. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), together with the Russian Aircraft Corporation (RAC), are turning aging MiG-29Bs into modern multi-role fighters similar to the MiG-29SMTs the Russian Air Force boasts about.

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Three of six MiG-29s that were sent to Russia are back in India for some time now, featuring all the upgrades of the program. They have become MiG-29UPGs, sporting the new Zhuk-M2E radar made by Phazotron-NIIR, the OLS-UEM infrared search-and-track system (IRST) similar to the Indian Navy MiG-29Ks, thermal / TV / laser imaging made by Moscow-based NPK SPP, multi-functional full-colour LCDs in the cockpit, increased fuel capacity and an in-flight refuelling system. Moreover the aircraft feature the more powerful RD-33 series 3 turbo-jet engines.

New role
The new radar will increase the MiG-pilot’s radar view up till 200 nautical miles, giving him – the Indian Air Force doesn’t have female fighter pilots – the ability to track 60 targets simultaneously and adds terrain-following mode and ground-target acquisition. In other words: the MiG-jock turns from a sole fighter pilot to an asset that can be used for close air support and ground attack, meaning the Fulcrum crews need additional training for their new role.

Non-Russian
Different from the Russian Air Force MiG-29SMTs the Indian most-modern Fulcrums are set to have non-Russian equipment, like a sat-nav system from French Sagem, a helmet-mounted targeting system from French Thales, an Indian indigenous electronic warfare suite and Israeli-made electronic counter measures. Added Indian systems come from HAL and Bharat Dynamics.

After the upgrades the Indian Air Force's MiG-29UPGs will have features somewhat similar to this Indian Navy MiG-29K (Image © Indian Navy)
After the upgrades the Indian Air Force’s MiG-29UPGs will have features somewhat similar to this Indian Navy MiG-29K (Image © Indian Navy)

Full-throttle
Despite severe delays in the program Indian specialists present at the Sokol plant in Nizhny Novgorod in Russia continue to learn from the Russian counterparts. The new Indian multi-role fighter was nicely captured on camera by Sergey Lysenko. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is in full-throttle to do the majority of the Fulcrum-upgrades. HAL will bring no less than 63 of the Air Force jets up to MiG-29UPG standard and produce 120 RD-33 series 3 engines under license of the RAC.

Front-line
The front-line MiG-29 fighter units will share a total of 54 MiG-29UPG amongst them, plus eight MiG-29UUPG two-seaters. The Fulcrums serve on four locations: with 8 Wing (47 and 223 Squadrons) at Adampur in the Punjab region facing Pakistan and China-controlled Tibet, with 33 Wing’s 28 Squadron at Jamnagar towards the Pakistani Karachi area and the Indian Ocean, and with 28 Squadron’s detachment at Leh in the Himalayas/Kashmir region in the far north. The seven remaining MiG-29UPGs will be held as attrition replacement or when the other aircraft will go in maintenance.

The more advanced Sukhoi Su-30MKI of the Indian Air Force (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Besides the MiG-29s, the Indian Air Force has the more advanced Sukhoi Su-30MKI (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Fly
MiG-29s fly in Indian Air Force service ever since 1987, when the first of 70 MiG-29B single-seaters and 10 MiG-29UB two-seaters arrived. Russia delivered the last of the B’s in 1994. Since then at least a dozen of the Fulcrums were lost in crashes and other accidents. After the upgrades the new MiG-29UPGs are planned to fly until at least after the year 2030.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger with source information provided by the Russian Aircraft Corporation/Mikoyan-Gurevich, HAL and the Indian Air Force

FORCE REPORT: the Air Forces of India

The new Indian MiG-29UPG is similar to this Russian MiG-29SMT (Image © Russian Aircraft Corporation)
The new Indian MiG-29UPG is similar to this Russian MiG-29SMT (Image © Russian Aircraft Corporation)