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The Indian Air Force (IAF) is struggling to get a vital component from the Russian original equipment maker (OEM) of MiG-29 fighter aircraft, without which the ongoing upgrade of the plane may not be complete.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is struggling to get a vital component from the Russian original equipment maker (OEM) of MiG-29 fighter aircraft, without which the ongoing upgrade of the plane may not be complete.

In a first ever move, IAF has tied up with a private player Taneja Aerospace Limited, a Pune-based company, for fixing the latest components in the MiG-29s. This will extend the aircraft's life cycle by another 40 years. Though everything else has been sourced, IAF has so far not had the latest navigation systems to be fitted along with the new systems, without which the work shall remain incomplete.

The components have been supplied from the Russian OEM, while some of the smaller spares have been developed by base repair depots (BRD) of the IAF. The BRDs come under IAF's maintenance command headquartered at Nagpur. However, when it comes to finally flying the aircraft, the plane will also be needing the navigation systems. "There have been long-drawn negotiations with RAC-MiG the company that makes the aircraft but there has been no result so far," said a senior IAF official closely related to the project.

Prior to signing a deal with Taneja Aerospace, one MiG-29 was upgraded by the maintenance command's 11 BRD at Coimbatore. The new aircraft could not be put into use till now for want of the navigation system, said a highly placed source in the maintenance command. The Russians have upgraded a few aircraft too but the majority of the work is to be done at home on the lines with the one upgraded at 11 BRD, the source said. To make the work faster, IAF tied up with the private player.

Even as the spares have been indigenized at the BRDs, the components that are single replaceable units have been sourced from Russia. The older navigation system cannot work now, said the IAF source. It has been typical of the Russian OEMs to deny or delay the supply of some or the other vital component that holds up the entire upgrade project. There were similar problems with the Ukrainians for the upgrade of AN-32s also.

The matter is now being taken up with utmost priority at government level. This will be on the agenda during Russian President Vladmir Putin's visit to India. Probably, the Russian government may not be aware of stance taken by the OEM. Taking up the matter directly at highest level may help, the source said.

As far as indigenization of the component was concerned, the source said it was a question of feasibility. With the limited number required, it was considered better to go for direct procurement from the OEM.

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