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Indian Air Force phasing out Soviet-era fighter jets and helicopters.

| 2018
World Aviation Defense & Security News - India
Indian Air Force phasing out Soviet-era fighter jets and helicopters
The Indian Air Force (IAF) continues retiring of Soviet-age legacy fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, according to local media outlets. In late 2017, the IAF brought out of operation early variants of the Mi-8 medium transport helicopter (known as Pratap in Indian service), MiG-27ML and MiG-21 fighter jets.
Indian Air Force pashing out era fighter jets and helicopters 640 001IAF MiG-27ML fighter jet
(File photo) 
"The Air Force had already phased out 107 Mi-8 helicopters, and the last chopper stopped its rotor at the Air Force Station, Yelahanka on Sunday [December 17]," the Hindustan Times daily said.

According to the Military Balance 2017 book issued by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the IAF operated 30 Mi-8 helicopters as of early 2017. As mentioned earlier, the service received a total of 107 Mi-8 rotary-wing aircraft in 1971-1988. According to Indian media outlets, the Pratap has a payload of 4,000 kg and can transport a cargo with a weight of up to 3,000 kg using external sling load.

In late 2017, the IAF also phased out the MiG-27ML multirole fighter jet designated Bahadur in Indian service. "The last MiG-27ML aircraft roared over Hasimara Air Force base in Bengal on Thursday [December 28] for the last time as the IAF bade farewell to this legacy fleet … The MiG-27ML had an impeccable track record in its more than three decades of glorious service to the [Indian] nation," the Times of India newspaper says, citing a statement made by a defense official. The aforementioned MiG-27ML plane was piloted by a crew that had been retrained to fly the newest Su-30MKI multirole fighter jets. It should be mentioned that the IAF retains the modernized MiG-27UPG fighters in service. "Though the last [MiG-27]MLs retire, they are not the last swing wing aircraft in service as few of them got a mid-life avionics upgrade and continue to serve the [Indian] nation. They are called MiG-27UPG and are presently based in Jodhpur," the Times of India newspaper adds.

The Military Balance 2017 book says that the IAF operated 90 MiG-27ML multirole fighter jets of all modifications as of early 2017. In 2002, India initiated a project to upgrade about two dozen of the MiG-27ML aircraft to the MiG-27UPG variant. The MiG-27UPG fighter has received a MIL-STD-1553B-compatible bus, the IFWCS integrated flight and fire control system, new electronic warfare (EW) systems and the INGPS inertial navigation system with satellite correction. The upgraded aircraft can carry the LDP (Laser Designator Pod) and LRMTS (Laser Ranger and Marked Target Seeker) containers with target designators and rangefinders. The MiG-27UPG can use the Griffin laser-guided bomb developed by Israel`s Israel Aerospace Industry. The cockpit of the fighter jet is fitted with a color multifunctional display (MFD). Over two dozen MiG-27s are reported to have been upgraded to the MiG-27UPG level.

The IAF also phased out the MiG-21 single-seat fighter jet. On December 30, the MiG-21 fighter of the service conducted its last flight. "This afternoon [on December 30], the Type-96/MiG-21, once the backbone and workhorse of the [Indian] Air Force, swiftly took off from Nal Airbase in Bikaner, Rajasthan in what would be its last sortie," the India Today newspaper said.

However, the retiring of the aforementioned Soviet-age legacy platforms has shrunk the number of fighter squadrons in service with the IAF. "This [the retirement of the MiG-21] will bring down its [the IAF`s] strength of squadron fighters to 31," the India Today points out.

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