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Indian Navy inducted MiG-29K supersonic air dominance fighters in 2010 but will get rid of the entire fleet of around 41 jets from service by 2025 onwards with less than 25 years of service in the fleet due to severe built quality issues with the jets that often requires periodic inspections at regular small intervals.

MiG-29K came with a 25-year design life of 6,000 hours and with a life extension programme it could have served Indian Navy for another 10-15 years but has learned that the Navy has no such plans to enhance the service span for the fleet and instead entire fleet will be scrapped after retirement.

According to the 2016 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, since induction, the fleet’s serviceability ranged from 21.30 per cent to 47.14 per cent, with over 40 engines having to be withdrawn due to design-related defects blamed on the Russian Military Complex’s poor quality.

The Indian Navy intends to replace the Mig-29K fleet with 45 Twin Engine Deck Based Fighters (TEDBF) a “5th generation minus” from 2035 onwards, but has learned that the Navy is unsure that the fleet will last beyond 2030 due to airframe defects, discrepancies, and anomalies that will make flying dangerous as it ages.

To relieve pressure on the Mig-29K fleet, the Indian Navy is interested in acquiring 26 Rafale M fighter jets before 2030, according to media reports. The deal could be announced soon, and the contract could be signed within the next 18 months.

Rational behind the Selection of Mig-29K

The Mig-29K was chosen due to experience with the Indian Air Force, which has been operating 60-odd Mig-29A (later upgraded to UPG) since the late 1980s, as India was the type’s second launch customer after the Soviet Air Force.

Mig-29K is based on the ‘basic’ MiG-29K airframe that was re-engineered to be used as Deck-based fighter aircraft by Soviet Aircraft carriers but the program came to an abrupt halt after the collapse of the Soviet Union and that program was only revived after India was Gifted Admiral Gorshkov allegedly free of cost but still had to pay $2.35 billion for the upgrade and refit of the vessel and an additional US$1 billion for the aircraft and weapons systems.

The Indian Navy gave the MiG-29K a new lease on life, and it later found its way onto the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which was only operating Su-33 Strike aircraft at the time. The Navy still claims it was the best choice available at the time, but many see it as a choice between lesser evils because the Su-33 continues to have a bad reputation in the Russian Navy, which later decided to ditch it in 2009 for the relatively newer Mig-29K.

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