The IAF’s top-of-the-line air superiority fighter is the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI. 272 are on order of which 230 have been delivered till date. The 66 MiG-29 aircraft in service are being upgraded jointly with Russia. The 57 Dassault Mirage 2000 aircraft are also under upgrade to Mirage 2000-5 Mk 2 standards. The IAF also has 139 Jaguar and 85 MiG-27 dedicated strike aircraft and significant numbers in both these types are also being modernised. The oldest MiG-21 FLs were phased out in 2013. The IAF still has ten squadrons of MiG-21. Other than the Bison, all will be phased out by 2017. 125 upgraded MiG-21 Bison will be retained but will start depleting by 2017 till they are phased out by 2025. 40 of the LCA Tejas Mk I, meant to replace the MiG-21s, are under induction and the first squadron should be operational by late 2017.
The 104 Antonov An-32 medium transport aircraft, the work-horse of the IAF transport fleet, are being upgraded. The aircraft also have bombing and para-drop roles. The Dornier Do 228 is used for light transport duties. Also used for communications duties is the Hawker Siddeley HS 748, 50 of which remain in service and are to be replaced by the C-295. Starting 1984, 17 Ilyushin Il-76 strategic airlift aircraft (43-tonne payload) were inducted into the IAF. They are gradually being replaced by the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlift aircraft with 75-tonne payload capacity.
The IAF has three Beriev A-50 platforms based EL/W-2090 Phalcon AEW&C. Two more are on order. The IAF has seven Ilyushin-78 aerial refuelling aircraft. Six Lockheed C-130J (one crashed later) for Special Operations including troop insertion have also been inducted into the IAF and are stationed at Hindon airbase near New Delhi. The IAF’s VIP Squadron operates the Boeing 737 BBJ and Embraer Legacy ECJ-135.
The Swiss Pilatus PC-7 Mk II is the basic stage trainer. 75 have been inducted and 38 more will be acquired. HAL HJT-16 Kiran Mk I and II are the intermediate stage trainers. The Kiran is to be one day replaced by HAL’s HJT-36 ‘Sitara’ which is still under development and facing serious design issues. The BAE Hawk Mk 132 is the Advanced Jet Trainer. Later, the IAF’s formation aerobatic team will also convert to the Hawk. 106 Hawk trainers were initially ordered and additional orders are being processed.
For years, HAL-built light utility helicopters Chetak and Cheetah have been used for training, rescue and light transport role. Cheetah and its re-engine variant Cheetal, are used for high altitude operations. These aircraft are being initially replaced by HAL’s Dhruv Helicopter. In addition to the light utility role, the Dhruv also has a weaponised version. The Dhruv is also used for the ‘Sarang’ helicopter formation display team.
Mil Mi-8 has been the main medium lift helicopter of the IAF. Later, these were replaced by more modern variants Mi-17, Mi-17 1V, and Mi-17 V5. Mi-17 V5s numbers will go up to 139. The IAF also operates three heavy-lift Mil Mi-26 helicopters. Two squadrons of Mil Mi-25/35 attack helicopters operate in support of the Indian Army.
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