India has deployed a squadron of upgraded MiG-29 fighter jets at the Srinagar air base to tackle threats from both the Pakistani and Chinese front.
The Tridents squadron which is now also known as the ‘Defender of the North’ has replaced the MiG-21 squadron at the Srinagar air base which has traditionally been responsible for taking care of the threat from Pakistan.
“Srinagar lies in the centre of Kashmir valley and its elevation is higher than plains. It is strategically better to place an aircraft with a higher weight-to-thrust ratio and less response time due to proximity to the border and is equipped with better avionics and long-range missiles. The MiG-29 fulfils all these criteria due to which we are capable of taking in the enemies on both fronts,” Indian Air Force pilot Squadron Leader Vipul Sharma told ANI.
The MiG 29s have multiple advantages over the MiG-21s which were able to successfully defend the area of their responsibility in the Kashmir valley for many years and also managed to strike down an F-16 in 2019 post Balakot air strikes on Pakistani terrorist camps on their mainland.
The MiG-29 has also been equipped with very long-range air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground weaponry after the upgrades and has also been armed with lethal weaponry making use of the emergency procurement powers given to armed forces by the government.
“The fighter aircraft have also been provided with the capability to jam the enemy aircraft’s capabilities during times of conflict”, officials said.
Another pilot Squadron Leader Shivam Rana said the upgraded aircraft can operate at night with night vision goggles and has a longer range due to air-to-air refuelling capability.
“We have also included the air-to-ground armament which was not there earlier. The biggest capability of the aircraft are the pilots which are handpicked by the Indian Air Force to serve on these aircraft,” he said.
The MiG-29s moved to the Srinagar air base in January this year and have flown extensively in the Kashmir valley along with the Ladakh sector where they would be one of the first to respond in case of any air space violation attempts by the Chinese.
The MiG-29s were the first aircraft to have been deployed in the Ladakh sector for tacking the threat from the Chinese side after the Galwan clash of 2020 and have thwarted multiple such attempts since then.