The upgrade of the whole fleet of the IAF’s MiG-29s will include a top-notch avionics suite which is a feature of the ship-borne MiG-29K/KUB fighters being serially produced for the Indian Navy. The overhaul and retrofitting of the aircraft will extend their service life to 3,500 flight hours and 40 years.
The avionics modernization of the aircraft will considerably expand the range of missions of the IAF’s MiG-29 fighters. At present the MiGs are primarily intended for intercepting aerial targets and gaining air superiority. Besides the broadened aerial potential, the upgraded aircraft will acquire the ability to strike ground (sea-surface) mobile and stationary targets with high-precision weapons under all weather conditions.
Complete updating of the onboard data and sighting systems will include fitment of state of the art multifunctional radar Zhuk-ME, an advanced onboard computing complex, a new weapon control system, an optronic station based on space technologies and colour multifunctional displays in the cockpit.
Armament upgrade of the IAF’s MiG-29s will include such most modern weaponry as substantially improved air-to-air missiles, high-accuracy guided missiles to destroy ground and sea surface targets and smart aerial bombs.
The retrofitted MiG-29s’ avionics suite will include a number of up-to-date systems developed and produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., Bharat Dynamics Ltd., and some foreign companies.
The first 6 fighters are to be upgraded and flight-tested in Russia. The overhaul and modification of the balance aircraft will be carried out in India at IAF aircraft repair facilities utilizing the equipment kits supplied by RAC ‘MiG.’
The contract includes an offset clause covering approximately 30% of the contract value. As part of the offset, RAC ‘MiG’ will set-up consignment depots and service centres for MiG fighters, service centres specializing in maintenance and repair of the Zhuk family radars and simulators centres equipped with the top-notch training aids.
With the transfer to HAL of the licence for production the RD-33 series 3 engines India will acquire the infrastructure for the MiG-29 family fighters’ indigenous maintenance, repair/overhaul and upgrade.
Should the Indian Air Force select the state-of-the-art MiG-35 fighter to meet its MMRCA requirement, all the key technologies including AESA radar manufacturing will be transferred to HAL. All possible assistance will be extended for serial production of the MiG-35 by HAL which has already successfully mastered the production of the MiG-21, MiG-27 and Su-30MKI combat aircraft. Other leading aviation companies of India will also be invited to participate in indigenous production of the MiG-35.
Asked about his views on the upgrade of the MiG-29, Air Marshal Harish Masand (Retd), one of the finest fighter pilots who commanded the first MiG-29 squadron in 1986, said, “The MiG-29 was always a superlative fighter and with the upgrade it will have unmatched capabilities”.