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The Indian Navy is reportedly exploring options to extend the operational life of its MiG-29K fighter jets beyond the initial retirement timeline of 2035. This move comes amidst delays in the procurement of a replacement aircraft under the Twin Engine Deck-Based Fighter (TEDBF) program.

The TEDBF program, aimed at acquiring new carrier-borne fighters, is yet to receive crucial approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). This delay is expected to push back the program’s timeline significantly. Even under an optimistic scenario, the CCS clearance next year would be followed by a three-year rollout period, developmental flight trials lasting 3-4 years, and finally production – a process unlikely to be completed before 2033.

Given this extended wait for new aircraft, the Navy is considering a life extension program for its existing MiG-29K fleet. These Russian-made jets, inducted into service in 2012, have played a vital role in the Navy’s carrier-based operations. The initial acquisition comprised 45 MiG-29Ks – 37 single-seat fighters and eight twin-seat MiG-29KUB trainers. However, the fleet size has shrunk due to accidents over the years.

The life extension program would involve leveraging the capabilities of local Indian Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and private sector companies. This approach would not only enhance the operational lifespan of the MiG-29Ks but also bolster India’s self-reliance in aircraft maintenance and upgrades.

While a final decision on the life extension program is yet to be made, the Navy’s consideration reflects the crucial role the MiG-29Ks continue to play and the need to bridge the gap until the new generation of carrier-borne fighters arrives.

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