The Indian Defense Ministry has confirmed the purchase of 33 fighters from Russia, the Russian media quoted Indian sources that request for sale of 21 MiG-29 and 12 Su-30MKIs is to be sent shortly to Rosoboronexport, Russian arms trade mediator.
It is worthwhile mentioning that the aircraft could be delivered “from the shelf” being in storage of the Russian Ministry of Defense (DoD). It has been reported that MiG-29 are to be upgraded for the UPG version in Russia while Su-30s should be upgraded till MKI level at the HAL facilities in Hyderabad. The sum of the contract may exceed US$ 1billion.
If the deal comes into reality it will be a sign of the dramatic shift within the Indian arms trade policy. Within the last years India stepped out from the 5th generation combat aircraft program based on the Russian Su-57 design. Additionally, the MiG-35 was taken out from the MRCA tender.
In September 2016, New Delhi signed a deal for 36 Rafale fighters for around $8.7 billion, the country’s first major acquisition of combat planes in two decades. The contract is to be fulfilled by the end of 2023. Dassault Aviation delivered 4 of these aircraft to-date.
Recently, a growing tension has been mounting in India-China bilateral relations. The Popular Republic of China’s aviation fleet overcomes its Indian counterpart in numbers and aircraft quality including 5th generation fighters.
Therefore, the Indian government decision seems to be logical and one can expect more news of the Indian-Russia saga in the nearest future, more specifically at the upcoming Aero India Exhibition which will take place 03-05 February 2021. It looks like the Indian 5th generation compact aircraft program could be revitalized with the Su-57 as its key stone.