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MIG 29 “BAAZ”; In the Background is the Su-30 MKI.

February 2010 I A Commentary on Aircraft Upgrades

A look at the present Flight of Capability

Aircraft upgrade
programs. The Indian Air Force-IAF at present is grappling with a sharp decline in the number of
its fighter squadrons, which presently stand at a precarious number of 32. The
sanctioned strength of the IAF is 39.5 squadrons.

However the IAF is confident that operational procurement plans are in place to ensure
its capability to operate in India’s expanding strategic environment, stretching from the
Persian Gulf right up to the Malacca Strait.

The 4th largest air force in the world’s eventual aim is to transform into an
‘Expeditionary aerospace force’, with an innate capability of rapid deployment and
operations at a global scale.

This commentary provides a quick round-up of some of the major upgrade programs
IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, Program: MIG 29 “BAAZ” upgrade / Engine
has outlined a three-pronged strategy
• Proposal finalized – December ‘06, inked in
for the Air Force. One, ‘to see first and March 2008 with RSK-MiG
see the farthest’, with air-borne warning
and control systems (AWACS) and • Price:
satellites. Two, ‘to reach first and the o US$ 1,000 million for 62 units
farthest’, with mid-air re-fullers to o US$ 250 million for 120 engines
enhance the radius of operations of its
fighters. And three, ‘to hit hard and
accurately’, with advanced missiles and Background: In February ‘06, the Indian
precision guided munitions. (PGM) government decided to upgrade its existing
fleet of MiG- 29S, MiG-29B and the twin seater
MiG-29UB. This upgrade would provide the
fighters with multi role capabilities and
improve their ability to carry advanced
weapons. The upgraded aircrafts would be
called MiG-29SMT / UBT fighters and their
flight-hour lifetimes would be extended from
25 years-2500hrs to 40 years-3500hrs. The
Russian company RSK-MiG already had a
dedicated upgrade kit for this program. It was
decided that the first 6 fighters would be
upgraded in Russia, while the rest would be
upgraded in India- at the base repair depot-
Nasik. The program was to be completed in 3
years from the date of the contract being
signed. (August 2008)
The upgraded fighters would be fitted with
extra fuel tanks in a thickened center spine.
Also included in the upgrade would be a new
avionics suite including the Phaztron Zhuk-ME
radar and in-flight refueling capacities.

Engine: The Indian govt. has also signed in

2006; contracts to license produce 120 units of
the the RD-33 series III jet engines, worth US$
250million. These engines would be an
improvement on the existing RD-33 series I and
II engines that are currently installed in the MiG
29 fleet.

Present Situation: The program is now slated

for completion only by 2014, almost 3 years
behind schedule.
The IAF was to provide RSK-MiG the associated
list of equipment and specifications. These
components would reportedly have come from to US$ 2,100 million, which also the IAF found
Indian, Russian, French and Israel (Elbit). exorbitant. The IAF claimed that instead of
However, the IAF is yet to finalize this list and spending US$ 41 million on each MIRAGE-2000,
provide it to RSK-MiG. it would prefer to buy brand new fighters. It is
worth noting that the original purchase cost of
the each MIRAGE-2000 was US$ 31 million.
Program: Mirage 2000 upgrade
The French urgency to get the deal signed
• RFP floated in April 2008, 2 years after during President Sarkozy’s visit in early 2010,
the program was finalized. has signaled Thales to source a significant share
• Estimated cost of US$ 1,500 million for of work and components from India. This will
51 units to be upgraded to the DASH-5 help reduce their offer price. Indian avionics
standard. manufacturers like Samtel-Thales Avionics, a
JV, will now manufacture certain upgrade
components locally. This will also assist Thales
Background: Thales responded to the RFP in in meeting its offset liabilities that will arise out
July 2008. Under the proposed plan, the of the deal.
company would deliver the first two aircraft
In the latest development (December ‘09),
from in France within 40 months of the signing
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has emerged
of the contract, and would simultaneously
as a contender. The IAI proposal also includes
assist HAL in upgrading another two aircraft in
rewiring the aircraft to enable them to carry
India. Thereafter, HAL would upgrade one of
the Rafael’s Derby BVR missile and Python-V
the remaining 47 aircraft, every month. The
short range missile. The armament
upgrade would extend the service life of the
compatibility extends further with the
aircraft by an estimated 20 years.
incorporation of various Israeli sourced air-to-
Under the upgrade, the entire frame would be surface guided weapons. This Israeli firm has
stripped down to be re-wired and re-equipped also opted to provide a fully operational
with new avionics, mission computers, glass mission simulator to the IAF. According to a
cockpits, helmet-mounted displays, electronic source, the IAI offer is 40% cheaper than the
warfare suites and weapons systems. These French proposal. Even though IAI is not the
upgrades would enhance the fighters longer OEM in this case, the company has significant
range detection across the spectrum, its experience on similar aircrafts. IAI also
tactical situation awareness, longer range manufactures the KFIR, an aircraft similar to
weapon firing capability against multiple the MIRAGE-III / IV.
simultaneous targets and its weapon stealth
and extended operating envelope with the
capability to engage ground targets while Program: Aviant / Antonov An-32
countering airborne threats. The new weapons
• Antonov proposed the upgrade
suite would include MBDA MICA, ASRAAM
program in 2005.
missiles and other NATO standard air-to-
• Contract signed in June 2009 with
surface guided weapons.
SpetsTechnoExport (STE) of UKRAINE.
• Price: US$ 400 million for 104 units.
Present Situation: During Prime Minister
Singh’s state visit to France in July 2009, the
two countries were slated to ink the US$ 2,100 Background: The IAF presently operates 105
million Mirage upgrade. However, the deal did An-32’s in the medium capacity transport
not go through. Initially, Thales had made an aircraft category. These aircraft were delivered
offer of US$ 2,900 million for the upgrade; this in 1984. The qualitative requirements as listed
after protracted negotiations had been reduced by the IAF for the upgrade are- extending
service life, enhancing operational capabilities, Program: Jaguar upgrade / Engine
easing crew workloads and reducing
• Avionics suite upgrade of 69 aircrafts:
maintenance costs. Under the program, the
first 4 - 6 aircraft would be upgraded in Ukraine o From NAVWASS to DARIN II
and the rest at the base repair depot- Kanpur. o From DARIN to DARIN II
The upgrade would extend the service life of
the aircraft by up to 20 years. • Engine Upgrade of 128 aircrafts
The upgrade package will include work on the • Estimated program cost:
An-32’s engines and avionics. o Avionics-US$ 123 million.
The aircraft’s AI-20DM engine’s time interval o Engine- US$ 670 million.
between overhauls would be increased from
2000hrs to 4000hrs and the total power plant
life to 20,000hrs. The operating range would be Background: The IAF received its first 38
increased from 900km to 1,400km- by Jaguars in a fly-away condition from BAe. These
integrating an additional fuel tank. The aircrafts were fitted with the NAVWASS
maximum take-off weight would also be (Navigation Attack Weapon Aiming Sub-
increased by 1,500kgs to 28,500kgs. System) from Marconi-Elliot Avionics Ltd, with
The avionics of the An-32 will also be replaced. the Head-Up display (HUD) from Smiths. At the
According to sources, the IAI-ELTA developed very outset, the RAF had clearly told the IAF
package, including a full glass cockpit with that this particular equipment had a very low
standard MFD’s and a control unit is the front- reliability factor. However, the NAVWASS was
runner. This avionics package also includes a the standard equipment onboard the Jaguar
digital moving map, full NVG capability, in flight aircraft and hence there was no easy
mission rehearsal options, HUD for both pilots. replacement. This made the IAF look at the
The significantly new advanced EWS in the possibility of in-house development of an
package will feature a radar warning receiver, inertial navigation system. (INS)
the fourth generation EL/M-2160 missile The project was managed by Inertial Nav-
approach warning system, laser warning Attack System Integration Organization (IIO)
receiver and conventional countermeasures. that was specially set up under the DRDO. The
Flight safety features being incorporated into IIO, termed the indigenous INS as the DARIN-
the upgrade will include an advanced terrain Display Attack Ranging Inertial Navigation.
avoidance warning system (TAWS) and an Sagem of France was appointed as the prime
enhanced traffic collision avoidance system. integrator and the HAL as the prime agency for
(ETCAS) carrying out the aircraft work. ASTE, Bangalore
also played a role in the selection of
equipment, its previous experience in this field
Present situation: The upgrade program coming very handy.
commenced in Ukraine in December ‘09. and is
slated for completion by 2017. However the DARIN was given full operational clearance in
Avionics package is yet to be firmed up. 1984, 9 years after the program began. Each of
Honeywell has also decided to participate in the Jaguar’s built by HAL under license is
the avionics upgrade as it has carried out a equipped with the DARIN avionics kit.
similar upgrade on the An-32 of the Jordanian A newer version called DARIN-II is now being
air force. fitted on all the Jaguars that were supplied by
BAe and the new ones being produced by HAL.
The DARIN-II has a HUD supplied by Elbit
(ISRAEL). An Elta (ISRAEL) built airborne self
protection jammer and an indigenous Rear Background: DARE achieved the successful
Warning Radar is also being installed. A Sagem completion of avionics upgrade of MiG-27
INS with Ring Guided laser (RGL) is further aircraft. This pioneering effort was realized
enhanced with an embedded GPS; this using entirely indigenous expertise at a fraction
improves the accuracy to within 100m. To of cost. The project was initiated in the year
improve redundancy, the Defence Avionics 2002 through a tripartite MoU between DARE,
Research Establishment (DARE) has supplied HAL and the IAF. The Initial Operational
twin mission computers. Clearance was accorded in June 2006 which led
to the subsequent formation of operational
The upgrade also includes a Litening Laser
squadrons. The upgrades were successfully
Designator Pod, along with an Auto Pilot
completed in January 2009.
supplied by SEXTANT- similar to the one
installed on the MIRAGE-2000. A new chaff
dispenser has also been added. On the 10
Present Situation: The IAF, after being very
maritime Jaguars, the Agave radar is being
satisfied with the Avionics upgrade, has
replaced with an Elta supply.
decided to also re-engineer the Mig-27’s power
plants. According to sources, the Su-30’s power
plant, the Al-31 is being seriously considered.
Present Situation: At present the DARWIN-II
upgrade is being carried out on the 17, twin
seater Jaguars being produced by HAL. Nine of
Program: Mi-17 upgrade
these aircrafts were inducted in July 2005.
Progressively, the BAe supply will be upgraded, • Cockpit & avionics upgrade of 160 units.
followed by the HAL built jaguars.
• Estimated cost: US$ 290 million

Engine: When the Jaguar is carrying its

Background: The twin-engine helicopters are
maximum permissible destructive and fuel
primarily used for troop insertion/extraction,
loads, the present Rolls-Royce / Turbomeca
casualty evacuation, logistic supply, search and
power plants licensed produced by HAL provide
rescue, reconnaissance and observation. They
a thrust/weight ratio of only 0.5. It is only the
operate in high altitude areas like the Siachen
skillful handling of the IAF pilots that the Jaguar
Glacier and have also been part of UN missions
can compete with the very best despite this
underpowered engine.
It is anticipated that there would be a cockpit
As a major component of the upgrade, a
upgrade wherein, a state of the art LCD screen,
committee headed by K.V.L. Rao, an aero-
touch screen and other features would be
engine expert, has been tasked to recommend
installed in the cockpit, so as to reduce
an engine for the re-engineering of the Jaguar.
attention of the pilot from the cockpit. Other
The two contenders are Rolls-Royce’s ADOUR
features that the Mi-17 integrated helicopter
Mk821 and Honeywells’ F125IN. Both the
avionics system would have are instrument
engines were successfully tested for the IAF in
approach, night and day navigation in all kinds
Bangalore in June-July 2009.
of weather conditions, increased flight safety
A final decision is awaited. features, better communication equipment,
low-level flight safety due to terrain awareness
and warning system and night vision.
Program: MiG 27 Engine upgrade
Present Situation: The RFP is expected anytime
• Engine package for 40 units. now. Honeywell, Hindustan Aeronautics
• Estimated cost: US$ 134 million Limited (HAL), and ROSOBORONEXPORT are
the likely contenders expecting to recieve the DISCLAIMER: This note has been prepared by Religare Capital
Markets (“RCML”) on the basis of publicly available information,
open RFP.
information provided by the company and promoters, neither
The 80 new Mi-17 helicopters, for which the which have been independently verified by RCML. RCML or its
employees shall in no circumstances whatsoever be liable or
IAF order is with Kazan Helicopters; Kazan has
responsible for any inaccuracies, omissions, mistakes or errors in
now approached Honeywell for the avionics. this paper and for any economic or any other loss or damage,
incurred or suffered by the reader/ user or any other person,
arising (whether directly or indirectly) out of or in connection
with such information. This note has been prepared without
Program: Sea King Mk42B & Ka-28PL Mid-Life prejudice. Any and all information contained herein is based on
Upgrade (MLU) good faith assumptions and is provided for general information
purposes only. This information does not constitute an offer,
promise, warranty, or guarantee of performance. This document
• Structural and Avionics upgrades of Sea
should not be used or relied upon for any purpose other than as
King’s and Kamov’s. intended by Religare Capital Markets Limited. Opinions expressed
herein are subject to change without notice. RCML undertakes no
• Estimated program cost:
obligation to provide the recipient with access to any further
o 18 Sea King’s- US$ 133 million. information or to correct any inaccuracies or omissions which
may become apparent. (Assumption: 1USD = Rs.45)
o 28 Kamov’s – US$ 189 million.


The responses to the RFP’s have been received Religare addressing the segments of Aerospace;
by the MoD. The Technical Evaluation Defence; Nuclear and Homeland Security providing
Committee (TEC) is in the process of Advisory Services, Project Management, Investment
scrutinizing them and a detailed evaluation will Related services and Supply Chain Management

follow. In the meantime it is understood that Col. K.V. Kuber

the NCNC trials for the 2 platforms have been Sr. Vice President - Investment Banking
completed. When the program was envisaged, M: 9650498286, E:
there were 18 Sea kings and 28 Ka-28’s. At this
Rahul Gangal
point of time it is unclear if these numbers still Sr. Vice President - Defence Advisory Services
stand or have reduced further. A school of M: 9650690869, E:
thought is for the Indian navy to simply keep its
Ankur Gupta
fleet airworthy and not carry out the proposed
Sr. Manager- Defence Advisory Services
MLU. A possible scenario could be that the M: 9560297134, E:
navy’s focus is now on the 37 new Multi-Role
Helicopters and the 5 new Kamov-31’s. Corporate office: D3, District Centre Saket, New
Delhi- 110017, India.
T: +91(11) 3912 5000 F: +91(11) 3912 5051 / 52
• SU-30MKI- upgrade program yet to be finalized.

• IL-76 & IL-78- upgrade program yet to be finalized.

• Mi-35- upgrade completed.

• Sea Harrier-upgrade completed.

• IL-38- upgrade completed.