Overall, the concept of upgrading the IAF MiG-29s corresponds to that of the MiG-29SMT that has been in service with the Russian Air Force since 2009 and mastered by Russian pilots. At the same time, there will be a high degree of avionics and weapons commonality with the MiG-29K/KUB carrierborne fighters that entered service with the Indian Navy on 19 February 2010. At the customer’s request, systems from various foreign manufacturers are integrated with the avionics suite of the upgraded MiG-29UPG (the so-called international avionics suite). Similar experience has been gained from the fulfilling of the Russian-Indian contracts for upgrade of the IAF’s MiG-21bis to MiG-21UPG Bison standard and for development and manufacture of the Su-30MKI and MiG-29K/KUB fighters. The experience has showed itself to good advantage.
The upgraded MiG-29UPG’s fire control system is wrapped around the advanced Phazotron-NIIR Zhuk-M2E slotted-array radar and OLS-UEM IRST with the laser, thermal-imager and TV capabilities from the Precise Instrument Systems Scientific and Production Corporation (NPK SPP). The same radar and IRST fit the MiG-29K/KUB. The cockpit management system is based on colour multifunction liquid-crystal displays. The international segment of the avionics suite includes a helmet-mounted target designator from Thales, an inertial/satellite navigation system from Sagem, an Indian electronic intelligence system and an Israeli electronic countermeasures system (the same gear equips the MiG-29K/KUB).
In addition to the conformal fuel cell behind the cockpit and the mid-air refuelling boom on the portside, visual differences between the MiG-29UPG and the baseline MiG-29 include the underwing chaff/flare dispensers from Bharat Electronics and advanced antennae of the defence aids suite under wign and in the root of the right fin.
The basic weapons carried by the MIG-29UPG are the same as those carried by the MiG-29SMT and MiG-29K/KUB. Unlike the weapons suite of production MiG-29s, they also include the RVV-AE medium-range active radar homing air-to-air missiles and such precision-guided air-to-surface weapons, as the Kh-29T general-purpose TV-homing missile, Kh-31A active radar homing antiship missile, Kh-31P passive radar homing antiradation missile, KAB-500Kr TV-homing bombs, etc.
The MiG-29 has been in IAF’s inventory since 1987. Overall, 80 aircraft of the type had been delivered from the later 1980s to the mid-’90s, including about 70 MiG-29 singleseaters (version B, or MiG-29B) and 10 MiG-29UB twinseaters.
Under the contract, the first six IAF MIG-29s (four singleseaters and two twinseaters) were upgraded and tested in Russia, where they arrived from India in 2008. The first MiG-29UPG made its maiden flight after upgrade in Zhukovsky on 4 February 2010. Upon completion of the tests, the first two upgraded MiG-29UPGs and a MiG-29UB UPG were returned to the customer early in December 2012. Three more aircraft were delivered in 2013. The remaining 56 aircraft will be upgraded in India at the production facilities of the IAF’s 11th Repair Base, using knockdown kits supplied from Russia.