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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Indian Air Force to phase out Soviet jets

New Delhi will replace its MiG-21s with domestically built fighters, a senior military commander said on Wednesday

The Indian Air Force will stop flying its Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter jets in 2025, when they will be replaced with multirole Tejas Mark 1A fighters, Chief of the Air Staff VR Chaudhari told reporters on Wednesday.

India currently operates a single squadron of 54 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s, which it acquired from the Soviet Union more than 60 years ago.

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Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi, Chaudhari said that the Air Force has ordered 83 HAL Tejas Mark 1A fighters as replacements, and will place another order for 97 of these Indian-built warplanes, replacing one squadron of 45 MiG-21s with three squadrons of Tejas Mark 1As.

Chaudhari said that the MiG-21 will take part in a final flyby at an air show in Prayagraj on Sunday, according to ANI News.

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Soviet- and Russian-built jets make up the backbone of India’s Air Force, with the Sukhoi Su-30 the most numerous fighter in the Indian fleet. In addition to 260 of these two-seater air-superiority fighters, India operates 75 MiG-29s and the 54 aforementioned MiG-21s.

India is the world’s largest arms importer, and sources 54% of its weapons and military equipment from Russia, according to figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. France supplies 29% of India’s armaments, while the US is responsible for 11%.

Although the US has warned New Delhi away from further purchases of Russian weapons – and offered to supply American arms in their place – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made indigenous arms production one of his administration’s core goals.

Work is currently underway not just to build more Tejas Mark 1 and Mark 2 fighters, but to develop a fifth-generation fighter to rival the US F-35, currently named the HAL Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).