The Indian Air Force’s No. 4 Squadron has swapped its Mig-21 fighters for Su-30 MKI fighters, remaining dependent on Russia since the Soviet era.
Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots are switching from MiG-21 to Su-30 MKI. On October 30, the FAI’s 4th squadron made the last sortie of the supersonic fighter that was in service for 60 years.
That same day, the official incorporation of the Su-30 MKI took place, which joined the Mig-21 on its last flight.
The IAF relies on Russian defense companies for Su-30 MKI spare parts and has publicly expressed difficulties with these suppliers in February 2022, during the large-scale invasion of Ukraine, as sanctions imposed on Russia led to the failure of deliveries.
Although its partnership with the US is thriving, India remains a long-term strategic partner of Russia, according to GlobalData’s report ‘India Defense Market 2023-2028’. The defense relationship with Russia has a deep history and is necessary to maintain Indian military platforms that, in many cases, date back to the Soviet era.
The decision to phase out the Mig-21 in favor of the Su-30 MKI and indigenous LCA fighters was announced in 2011, by which time 476 of the fleet of 946 MiG-21 aircraft had been lost in accidents over decades. Initially scheduled for 2017, the replacement is ongoing, with two Mig-21 squadrons still in operation.
The MiG-21 was the IAF’s first supersonic aircraft, entering service in 1963 and operational with No. 4 Squadron since 1966. The second generation interceptor variant began delivery in 1964 and was used to great effect in conflicts with Pakistan between the dangers of 1965 and 1971.
The Su-30 MKI was jointly designed by Sukhoi Design Bureau and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited based on the Su-30 fighter aircraft. The MKI variant is a multi-role fighter aircraft that made its first flight in 1997. One of the main advances that the Su-30 MKI offers over the MiG-21 is a fly-by-wire control system. The Mig-21 was very maneuverable when it was first introduced, but today, it is outclassed by aircraft with this avionics system.
In November 2017, the IAF successfully tested the air-launched variant of BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, with a range of 290 km, from the Su-30MK. Following a third live fire from the fighter two years later, the IAF successfully integrated the cruise missile into the aircraft in December 2019.