MOSCOW - India Russia programme for co-developing a fifth generation fighter aircraft has come to an end owing to the high costs involved in the project.
The technology of the plane was not worth the money involved in it and it would have been much inferior to the American F-22 Raptor and the F-35 fifth generation planes.
However Russia has offered India used MiG-29s.Although Mig 29s are flown by the Indian 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. "We will have to be cautious to ensure that the planes don't become a maintenance nightmare for us in the future as they are different in many ways," the sources said.
The Indian Navy also operates the MiG-29 'K' and is the only operator of this version of the plane and is having a rough experience with the planes which are difficult to maintain and their settings change immediately after they land on the aircraft carrier.
The Air Force has three squadrons of the MiG-29s which have been undergoing upgrades for an extended life and are considered to be very good planes in the air defence roles.
However, ministry sources said the planes can also help in arresting the fall of number of squadrons in the Air Force which has been demanding new aircraft for meeting its sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons.
Unless new planes are bought, the numbers could drop from the current 32 to 29 in 2027 and less in the 2030s. This is despite the 36 Rafale fighters that the Modi government has bought and the six squadrons of the indigenous Tejas or Light Combat Aircraft that the IAF will have by 2032.
Currently, the IAF's fighter strength includes six squadrons of the deep penetration strike Jaguars, three squadrons of the MiG-29, three squadrons of the Mirage-2000, 12 squadrons of the Sukhoi-30MKI, two squadrons of the MiG-27 and 11 squadrons of the various kinds of MiG-21s, including the revamped Bisons. By 2022, however, only one of these MiG-21 squadrons will be left.