India Plans to Retire Russia’s MiG-27 to the End of the Year

NEW DELHI, (BM) – The Indian Air Force is reportedly planning to retire its final squadrons of MiG-27 Flogger strike fighters in the final week of 2019, as part of a comprehensive fleet modernisation program which was accelerated following a perceived underperformance during clashes with neighbouring Pakistan in February of this year.

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The service currently fields three mixed squadrons of MIG-27ML and MiG-23UB swept wing single engine fighters, with an estimated 60 MiG-27 and 20 MiG-23 fighters currently in service. One of these squadrons is currently in frontline service at Jodhpur Airbase which closely borders Pakistani territory. It is unclear if squadrons phased out of service will be placed in reserve, or will be fully decommissioned from the Air Force, but this will leave only a dozen MiG-27 fighters in service globally – the twelve fighters currently operated by the Kazakh Air Force.

The Indian Air Force manufactured MiG-27 fighters under licence from the Soviet Union until the mid-1980s, producing 165 aircraft domestically. These aircraft were favoured over the heavier Su-24 and Su-22 strike platforms which the Soviet Union was also offering for export in part due to their lower maintenance requirements and similarly with MiG-23 multirole fighters already in Indian service at the time.

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The MiG-27 saw service during the Kargil War where they were reported to have taken a heavy toll on Pakistani ground forces, and while formidable for their time the design is approaching 45 years in service and is increasingly outmatched by more modern platforms in Indian service – most notably the Su-30MKI which can be outfitted to deliver precision guided munitions for long range strikes.

The Indian Air Force is considering phasing out its other dedicated air to ground strike aircraft, the ageing Jaguar attack jet, due to the very significant costs of upgrade packages for the platform – with the Su-30MKI outfitted for ground attack highlighted as a potential replacement. India’s armed forces have not shown interest in investing in dedicated strike or ground attack aircraft such as the Su-25 or Su-34 in future, and instead appear to be prioritising acquisitions of versatile multirole jets capable of performing both strike and air to air missiles.

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The Su-30MKI has been foremost among these, and is not only the most capable fighter in Indian service but also the most widely deployed with over 250 in service and dozens more expected to be acquired in the near future. With these fighters recently having deployed a new precision guided class of cruise missile, the BrahMos, and set to deploy new SPICE-2000 GPS guided bombs, their strike capabilities significantly eclipse those of the MiG-27 across the spectrum.

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Source: Military Watch