The Air Force of India is rapidly improving its combat capability by phasing in newer and more reliable fighter aircraft. India's neighbors may also be considering buying newer, more capable aircraft as well. Here's a look at changes in the country's air force:
* Until recently, the Indian military's front line fighter was the unpredictable MiG-21, a relic of the 1970s. Its known shortcomings are finally causing it to be retired after many years, says AFP.
* The MiG family's notorious difficulty to fly and its lack of accommodation for the flight crew was highlighted recently by a joint exercise between the U.S. Air Force and the air force of Bulgaria, in which pilots rode in American and Russian aircraft. The MiG pilots commented on the superior ergonomics and ease of flight for the U.S. aircraft.
* The experience in conflicts over the last few decades has shown that an air force that flies Russian aircraft is at a tremendous disadvantage to an air force with European and American aircraft
* The Indian MiGs have been upgraded over time, to incorporate newer electronics, but they still retain their limitations of insufficient electrical power and poor flying qualities.
* After buying French Dassault Mirage interceptors and now Rafale strike aircraft, India is replacing its problem MiG fleet with more capable aircraft.
* India can blame Indira Gandi for cursing it with the MiG family for all of these years, in the 1960s it was trying to get the approval of the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, and so converted India to using mainly Soviet military hardware.
* Fortunately, most of India's neighbors for the last few decades have also used Soviet aircraft and so no one had a technological edge. Might that be changing now?
* Recently India has been upgrading to the Lockeed C-130 cargo aircraft, which is more capable than the Russian aircraft it is replacing.
* India's neighbor Bangladesh is also training on more recent C-130 aircraft which might indicate a future sale of them to that country.
Charles Phillips was an Air Force officer from 1978 until he retired in 2005 (working in space, communications, and maintenance), first in the Active Duty for ten years, then in the Texas Air National Guard for 10 years, and last in the Air Force Reserve for eight years. He has been a writer all of that time. Now he finds the stories that people are interested in but might have been missed by other reporters.
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