The Indian Air Force is set to completely retire the active squadrons of some of its most important but now “aged and outdated” fighters.
The list includes the remaining fleet of the MiG-21 “Bison” Interceptor Supersonic Jet Fighter, next name in the list is of the MiG-29UPG, India has acquired 3 squadrons of the upgraded MiG-29 in the mid 1980s to counter the threat posed by the pakistani purchase of the F-16 Fighting Falcon Jets. All MiG-29UPGs will be retired during 2027-2030. The last name in the list is of the SEPECAT Jaguar nuclear ground strike aircrafts, the Indian Air Force plans to retire the older DARIN-1 and DARIN-2 jaguars of its fleet by 2034, the upgraded DARIN-3 Jaguars may still fly beyond 2030s after getting major upgrades.
All three of these fighters are the most capable and important fighters in the IAF fleet. The Indian Air Force has already planned to retire the remaining four squadrons of the longest serving fighter in the history of the IAF, the Mikoyan MiG-21 “Bison”. These Soviet-era MiG-21s will be phased out in the scheduled time span of the next three years, with one squadron based in Srinagar, JK to be retired soon by September 30, this year.
Apart from these last remaining squadrons of the MiG-21, all other has been retired earlier. Currently, the Indian Air Force has a active fleet of approximately 70 MiG-21s.
Although, this decision of the complete retirement of the MiG-21 came days after two IAF fighter pilots died in a MiG-21 crash in western Rajasthan’s Barmer district on last Thursday. The IAF has ordered a Court of Inquiry to know the reasons behind the aircraft crash.
But according to IAF officials, the plan to retire the ageing and outdated fleet is part of the IAF’s modernisation plan and is not linked to Barmer incident.
The squadron which is to be retired in September end is based at the Srinagar Air Force Station, known as the No. 51 squadron of the IAF nicknamed as the “Sword Arms”, the squadron comes under the western command of Indian Air Force. The Squadron mainly consists of Mig-21 aircrafts, the current strength of the squadron is of 16 to 20 aircrafts.
The next aircraft which is scheduled to be retired soon in the next upcoming years from the IAF is the MiG-29UPG, a modified Air Superiority Fighter of the Indian Air Force. The MiG-29UPG will be replaced in the IAF by the HAL Tejas Mk2, a Multi-role medium weight combat aircraft currently under development by India. The Tejas Mk2 is planned to enter into production from 2026, and the IAF will start getting the first units from 2028-29.
About the MiG-29UPG Air Superiority Fighter of the Indian Air Force!
The MiG-29UPG is said to be the most advanced version of the MiG-29, the aircraft is equipped with some of the most advanced technologies, such as foreign-made avionics suites, advanced weapons systems, new Zhuk-M radar, new avionic systems, an IFR probe, as well as brand new powerful RD-33 Series 3 turbofan engines (the series 3 RD-33 engines have a longer service life as compared to other variants of the RD-33). The MiG-29UPG is also equipped with the DRDO/DARE D-29 Electronic Warfare System.
The Indian Air Force operates approximately 50 MiG-29UPGs.
The last fighter which is in the list, and is to be retired is the SEPECAT Jaguar Nuclear Strike Aircraft. The Indian Air Force operates a total number of 130 of these aircrafts. The IAF has been operating the Jaguar aircrafts since 1979. Although the Jaguar was purchased by many countries such as Oman, Nigeria, Ecuador but India was the largest single export customer of this aircraft, with a $1 billion order for the aircraft in 1978, the Jaguar was chosen ahead of the Dassault Mirage F1 and the Saab Viggen after a long and difficult evaluation process by the IAF.
The IAF termed the Indian Jaguars as a “deep penetrating strike aircraft”. Indian Jaguars were used to carry out reconnaissance missions in support of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1990. They later played an active role in the 1999 Kargil War, dropping both unguided and laser-guided bombs onto enemy positions. India also uses the Jaguar into limited “anti-ship” role, a small number of Indian Jaguars are equipped with the MBDA Sea Eagle medium weight sea-skimming anti-ship missiles.
The Jaguar remains an important element of the Indian military as, along with the Mirage 2000, the Jaguar has been described as one of the few aircrafts capable of performing the nuclear strike role with reasonable chances of success. It has been said that the Indian military decided into developing the Jaguar into an active nuclear platform because of its lack of ground clearance for deploying India’s gravity-dropped nuclear bombs.
India has upgraded the aircrafts multiple times, the latest upgrade program ongoing for Indian Jaguars is the DARIN III (Display Attack Ranging Inertial Navigation). India is the last remaining operater of the Jaguar aircrafts, the French Air Force retired the aircraft in 2005, and the Royal Air Force retired the aircraft from service in 2007. It was replaced by the Panavia Tornado and the Eurofighter Typhoon in the RAF and the Dassault Rafale in the French Air Force.
In the Indian Air Force the Dassault Rafale Multirole fighter and the upcoming Tejas Mk2 is supposed to take the mission roles of the SEPECAT Jaguar. The Tejas Mk2 is also supposed to take the roles of all three MiG-29UPG, SEPECAT Jaguar and Mirage 2000 fighter types.
The Indian Air Force has planned to induct a total of more than 360 fighter jets into its fleet in the next 15 years as part of its modernization plan, that includes 60 HAL AMCA fifth-generation advanced fighters, 83 Tejas MK1A advanced fighters, 106 Tejas Mk2 Medium-weight fighters, and 114 MRFA Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts. In this time-period of these next 15 years, the Indian Air Force will retire the complete squadrons of the MiG-21s, MiG-29UPGs and last remaining squadrons of the SEPECAT Jaguar DARIN-1 and DARIN-2 variants.