NEW DELHI/MOSCOW – Jun 19, 2020 – In the middle of the standoff between India and China, the Indian Air Force has pushed a proposal to the country’s government for acquiring additional 33 fighter aircraft, which includes 21 MiG-29 and 12 Su-30MKI jets directly from Russia.
“The Air Force has been working on this plan for some time but they have now fast-tracked the process and the proposal’s expected to be worth over Rs 6,000 crore (which is around $800 million) would be placed before the Defence Ministry for its final approval next week at a high-level meeting,” government sources said.
There is an effort to try, upgrade and induct more military hardware. These deals were in pipeline for a very long time.
MiG-29s are flown by the Air Force and the pilots are familiar with it but the ones offered by the Russians are different from the ones in the Indian inventory. The Air Force has three squadrons of MiG-29s which have been undergoing upgrades for extended service and are considered reliable in the air defense roles.
Su-30MKIs are relatively expensive to run, primarily because they require 2 pilots, in contrast to most other Indian jets where 1 pilot is required. However, even though India has hundreds of Su-30MKIs, an additional number of jets would make a huge difference, especially after it was revealed that Indian-produced Su-30MKIs lacked the quality of those produced in Russia and were more prone to crashes.
Possibility of renewal of the joint Indo-Russian Su-57/FGFA deal
After India declared an unofficial hiatus on its participation in the Su-57-inspired FGFA (Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft) program, which was planned to be a joint venture between Russia’s Sukhoi and India’s HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited), India was left without a viable 5th generation fighter jet program.
Although HAL officially still runs India’s indigenous 5th generation fighter jet program, officially known as HAL AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft), the program’s development process has been very slow and marred with R&D difficulties, numerous delays and substantial cost overruns.
HAL’s development of India’s only indigenous 4th generation fighter jet, known as HAL Tejas and started back in the 1980s, drew harsh criticism for not producing needed results and not meeting Indian Air Force requirements even after almost 40 years of development and almost 20 years after its first flight in 2001.
Although Tejas was officially introduced into service in 2015, the number of jets in IAF’s inventory stands at 33 units, 16 of which are prototypes. With AMCA being a significantly more complex platform than the Tejas, it’s expected that the delay in its production would be even more severe, with most leading world powers expected to field 6th generation platforms by the time the program gets to the production line.
With recent events showing that a possible conflict with China is not impossible, a prospect of India having to fight an emerging superpower which already fields or is about to field not one, but two 5th generation fighters (J-20 and J-31) sounds terrifying to most of its war planners, as it would likely put India at a severe disadvantage. Thus, it’s not impossible that India would resume talks with Russia on the FGFA program.