The Indian Air Force is reportedly planning to retire its final squadrons of Mikoyan MiG-27 ground attack aircraft in December.
Three years ago, two squadrons of MIG 27 were phased out in Bengal’s Hashimara and Squadron 29 is the last remaining Squadron of MIG 27 in the country, based in Jodhpur.
The jets were first introduced into the Soviet Air Force in 1975. Following an agreement sealed between Moscow and New Delhi, the planes were shipped to India starting 1984. State-run HAL started domestic production of the ground attack aircraft a year later.
The Indian Air Force manufactured MiG-27 fighters under license from the Soviet Union until the mid-1980s, producing 165 aircraft domestically. These aircraft were favored over the heavier Su-24 and Su-22 strike platforms which the Soviet Union was also offering for export in part due to their lower maintenance requirements and similarly with MiG-23 multirole fighters already in Indian service at the time.
As part of a comprehensive fleet modernisation program that was accelerated following a perceived underperformance during clashes with neighboring Pakistan in February of this year. The service currently fields three mixed squadrons of MIG-27ML and MiG-23UB swept wing single-engine fighters, with an estimated 60 MiG-27 and 20 MiG-23 fighters currently in service. One of these squadrons is currently in frontline service at Jodhpur Airbase which closely borders Pakistani territory.
All the MIG 27 fighter aircraft in the Squadron will take their last flight in December this year after which they will be phased out.
An official source informed India Today TV that during an official ceremony in Jodhpur, scheduled for December 27 this year, these fighter aircraft will take their last flight.
It is unclear if squadrons phased out of service will be placed in reserve, or will be fully decommissioned from the Air Force, but this will leave only a dozen MiG-27 fighters in service globally – the twelve fighters currently operated by the Kazakh Air Force. T
The MiG-27 saw service during the Kargil War where they were reported to have taken a heavy toll on Pakistani ground forces, and while formidable for their time the design is approaching 45 years in service and is increasingly outmatched by more modern platforms in Indian service – most notably the Su-30MKI which can be outfitted to deliver precision-guided munitions for long range strikes.
The Indian Air Force is considering phasing out its other dedicated air to ground strike aircraft, the aging Jaguar attack jet, due to the very significant costs of upgrade packages for the platform – with the Su-30MKI outfitted for ground attack highlighted as a potential replacement.
India’s armed forces have not shown interest in investing in a dedicated strike or ground-attack aircraft such as the Su-25 or Su-34 in the future, and instead, appear to be prioritizing acquisitions of versatile multirole jets capable of performing both strike and air to air missiles.
The Su-30MKI has been foremost among these and is not only the most capable fighter in Indian service but also the most widely deployed with over 250 in service and dozens more expected to be acquired in the near future. With these fighters recently having deployed a new precision-guided class of cruise missile, the BrahMos, and set to deploy new SPICE-2000 GPS guided bombs, their strike capabilities significantly eclipse those of the MiG-27 across the spectrum.