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The Indian Air Force (IAF) has charted out an ambitious plan to extend the operational life of its fleet of MiG-29 frontline fighter jets. The second life extension programme aims to delay the retirement of these formidable aircraft from the previously scheduled 2027 to a new target of 2037. This extension will effectively keep the fleet operational for nearly 50 years, showcasing the IAF’s commitment to optimizing its existing assets and bolstering its air defence capabilities.

The MiG-29 fighter jets were first inducted into the IAF in 1986 and played a pivotal role in strengthening India’s aerial prowess. As one of the initial export customers of this iconic fighter aircraft, India procured them from the Soviet Union. Over the years, the MiG-29 fleet has proven its mettle in various operational scenarios, displaying its versatility and combat capabilities.

To keep the MiG-29 fleet modern and combat-ready, the IAF initiated the first life extension programme under the Upgrade Programme (UPG) in the past. This comprehensive upgrade enhanced the Air to Ground Strike capabilities of the aircraft, transforming its earlier air dominance configuration.

Now, with the second life extension programme on the horizon, the IAF is gearing up to breathe new life into its fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets. The project will be executed at the No.11 Base Repair Depot, located near Nashik. This depot is specifically mandated with the repair and overhaul of Russian-origin fighter aircraft, making it the ideal facility for carrying out this crucial life extension initiative.

As the IAF focuses on modernization and fleet optimization, the indigenously developed Tejas MkII fighter jet is poised to take centre stage. With its first flight anticipated in 2025 and subsequent induction scheduled from 2029 onwards, the Tejas MkII is set to replace the ageing Jaguar strike aircraft.

Post-2035, the Tejas MkII will undertake an even more significant role, replacing both the French Mirage-2000 and the Russian MiG-29UPG fleet within the IAF. This ambitious transition will streamline the IAF’s fighter jet inventory and introduce a technologically advanced, indigenous platform for future air operations.

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