NEW DELHI: The Soviet Union has offered to update the MIG 21 aircraft with new wings and sophisticated avionics to give it the capability of the light combat aircraft (LCA).

‘The update of MIG-21 with a new engine will cost the Indian Air Force Rs 5 corer per aircraft whereas the cost of an LCA at today’s prices will come to about RS 35 corer.

The Russians have suggested that the IAP can update some squadrons of MIG-21’s while Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) can produce additional number of such aircraft without dislocating the production of MIG27 now in full swing.

Defense experts point out that when the Chinese and Pakistanis can upgrade their fleet of older fighter aircraft by installing American engines and Western avionics, why should India not do the same?

This can be a very cost effect solution to meet the requirements of the IAF without spending any foreign exchange and producing a modern combat aircraft eight times cheaper than the existing ones.

The Russians have already made very detailed studies of the compatibility of the new jet engine which has a better thrust to weight ratio with the older versions of MIGs.

One proposal is that Hindustan Aeronautics should be given the new wing and airframe of the MIG-21 BIS and asks the experts to fit the American GE-404 jet engines into it.

According to indications, HAL has already received more than 10. GE-404 jet engines under an agreement signed with the USA.

The GE404 jet engine, which fits the F-16, will give the MIGs very high degree of maneuverability and better radius of action. The American jet engine is smaller and lighter than the engines of the MIGs and could be easily installed into the MIGs without changing the planes configuration.

The MIG-21s can be updated in various phases. One proposal is to provide combat flaps and increase the fuel capacity of the MIGs.

The performance of the MIGs can be improved by 30 to 40 percent by changing the wings, installing new avionics, replacing the engine with a more powerful one and fitting them with multimode radar and the latest head up display in the cockpit.

HAL experts say that the Russians have informed the Indian side that they have tested a new type of wing for the MIGs and they are ready to offer it in numbers.

The Russians have also discussed with the experts of HAL the possibility of producing the new MIGs. They have pointed out that jigs and fixtures used in the production of MIG-21s will remain the same. By spending in all about Rs 100 corer, India can have an LCA of world class.

The capacities of HAL are tapering off with the stoppage of the production of the Kiran jet trainer aircraft. Experts say the optimum use of the capacities of HAL Bangalore and Nasik divisions can be made without any risk, HAL engineers say.

Article extracted from this publication >> October 28, 1988