Three squadrons to be retired from active duty. Can Su-30 MKI be a stop-gap measure ?
Indian Air force plans to retire two Mig 21 and one MiG 27 Squadron from it's fleet, thus reducing the serving squadron from the existing 35 to 32. A single squadron under IAF consists of 18 fighters with two trainer jets and two more jets in reserve. So IAF will be phasing out almost 54 jets from service.
The MiG 21 and MiG 27 were acquired from Russia in the early 70's and 80's and have now become obsolete considering the modern jets being fielded by Pakistan and China. IAF has planned to replace the phasing out squadrons with the more advanced SU-30 MKI. IAF had placed an order for 272 Su-30 MKI which is being taken care off by HAL. HAL has till date delivered around 210 Su-30 MKI to the air force and has promised the delivery of another 62 jets at an expedited pace.
IAF is also awaiting the induction of Rafale and LCA to boost it's capability. HAL currently is manufacturing around 16-18 Su 30 MKI a year which will be serve as a squadron when inducted. With the squadrons depleting IAF is sure to raise the number of orders with HAL for these lethal jets. The Su-30 MKI is an proven platform which can serve the IAF as a multi-role aircraft.
The MiG 21 was an dedicated air interceptor platform for the IAF and the LCA program has been a promising replacement for the aging jets. Even though the Tejas is running behind schedule it has turned out to be a reliable platform and is one of the only jets to have attained IOC and FOC without a single crash. HAL and ADA has already started work on the advanced Mk-II. The MiG 27 was an ground attack platform and have been key part of the fleet against ground targets. The Mirage 2000 can be considered as an replacement for the MiG-27 and the soon to be inducted Rafale will also fill the void left by the MiG-27.
The jet's even though decommissioned will continue to serve the nation by being the 'Christmas tree' for other jets serving in the fleet. Key machinery of the jets will be used for keeping other aging jets in the fleet and will be serve as the spare for years to come.
IAF currently operates 35 squadrons as against the sanctioned 45 squadrons. Even though HAL is working at its best the aging and retiring jets is a worrying matter for IAF. The answer for this is possible only by setting up a parallel supply line in HAL and actively encouraging private players for producing state-of-the-art jets indigenously.
Editor Karthik kakoor