Mig-27 to Become History as Last Squadron to Be Decommissioned by Indian Air Force
India became free from British rule in 1947. At that time the small Indian air force only had British and American aircraft. The first fighter jet the D Havilland Vampire was introduced in the IAF in 1948. For the next decade, the Indian Air Force continued to operate British aircraft. They purchased the Hawker Hunter, the English Electric Canberra, and the Folland Gnat for the Indian Air Force.
There was a change in the approach of the western powers in the late 50s. Pakistan had become an ally of the United States in the war against communism. Pakistan was not interested in the war against communism and Soviet Russia, as it considered only India as its enemy. It became a member of the various security pacts floated by the USA only to fight India.
The Indians requested the English for the Lightning Mark II fighter but it was refused. The Americans also refused to give the latest fighter planes to India. In such a scenario Nikita Khrushchev the Soviet leader visited India and established rapport with the Indian leadership led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the left-leaning defence minister VK Krishna Menon. The latter was a strong nationalist and he approached Khrushchev for the latest fighter in the Soviet Arsenal. The Russians agreed and also signed on the dotted line to allow India to manufacture the plane under license in India. This was the MIG-21. Production commenced at two plants at Nasik and Koraput in Odisha.
The Indians had their first introduction to Russian aircraft and for the next five decades, the Russians had a monopoly of supplying military hardware to India. The West led by the USA was aghast but could do nothing much. Almost all the frontline planes from the MIG-21, Su-7, MIG 23, AN -12 and MIG 27 were inducted into the Indian air force was of Russian origin.
The MiG -27 was a pretty fine plane and was christened "Bahadur" by the IAF. Over the decades the MiG 27 served the IAF with distinction. At the moment only one squadron is left. This is the "Scorpion" No 29 squadron, which consists of seven upgraded MiG- 27 planes. They will be decommissioned on 29th of December this year
The MiG- 27 has been given the name "Flogger" by NATO. It is a variable geometry ground attack aircraft. Thanks to Krishna Menon, this plane was also manufactured under license by Hindustan Aeronautics. The Indian version of the MiG -27 was optimized for air to ground attack unlike the other versions of the plane.
The MIG-27 was not widely used by the Air Forces of other countries. It was mostly used by the Indian Air Force and the Russian air force
The MIG-27 did yeoman service for the IAF. It was used with a lot of success during the 1999 Kargil war and only one plane was lost due to engine failure. This happened while it was attacking the Pakistan army positions in POK. However, during the last two decades, the IAF lost 12 planes to air crashes.
The MiG- 27 while in service was used mainly for ground support. It played a critical role in the ground support actions of the IAF
A few statistics on the plane will be interesting for the readers. The plane had a top speed of 1885 km/h. It had a length of 17 m and used the Tumansky- R 29 engine. Nearly 1075 of these planes were built and the first flight of the plane was on August 20, 1970. It entered service with the Indian air force a few years later. The plane had a range of 1553 miles and an operational ceiling of 45,930 ft.
The plane was good but was plagued by many technical issues. That is the reason it has been retired while the MIG-21 which was inducted a decade earlier continues to be part of the IAF arsenal. The MIG- 21 was used in combat with the F-16 in the recent Balakot strike and a MIG piloted by Wg Cdr Vardhaman shot down an F-16.
Into the Sunset
After four decades the MIG- 27 will finally be laid to rest. It has been confirmed that the official ceremony in Jodhpur has been scheduled for December 27, this year. The planes will be flown for the last time and then the Air Force will decide what to do with these planes. Most likely one or two will be kept in the air force Museum at Palam, Delhi. Some will be allotted around the country to children's parks as souvenirs and monuments
During its prime, the Indian Air Force operated 11 squadrons of the MiG 27. The plane was a single-seater ground attack aircraft and had sophisticated avionics and weapons. It was capable of delivering a variety of loads in different modes of attack. It could also carry precision munitions and which could be guided by TV /laser.
The MIG- 27 met the requirement for a tactical air support role. It is learned that once this warplane is retired the only other countries that will be maintaining the MIG- 27, is Kazakhstan.
A ceremonial farewell will be accorded to this plane. All fighter pilots of the base will assemble and fly the last sortie in various formations and a salute will be accorded on landing.
For some reason, the plane was used only by the Russian air force and the Indian air force. It did not get the legendary status of the MiG 21 yet the IAF will miss the plane. The use of this plane by the IAF is a tribute to the foresight of Krishna Menon who forged strong ties with the Soviet state.