BHARAT RAKSHAK MONITOR - Volume 2(6) May-June 2000

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The MiG-27 Upgrade

Equipping some eight operational squadrons (Nos. 2, 9, 10, 18, 22, 29, 51, 222) and one training establishment (TACDE), the MiG-27ML forms the backbone of the Indian Air Force’s strike fleet. The IAF’s MiG-27 fleet is also relatively young, with the oldest airframe at 16 years and the youngest at 4. These two factors have ensured that upgrading the MiG-27 is high on the IAF’s list of priorities. The bulk of the equipment and avionics fitted on the MiG-27 were developed in the 1970s and requires replacement. The IAF’s upgrade program aims to keep the type in frontline service till 2020. Unlike the IAF’s MiG-21 upgrade program, the MiG-27 upgrade will primarily be an in-country affair, with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) Nasik Division acting as the primary contractor. To this end HAL is expanded the Design Department at the Nasik Division into a full-fledged Bureau, re-designated as the Aircraft Upgrade Research and Design Centre (AURDC), in 1996. AURDC is heavily involved in the re-design and structural modifications of the aircraft as part of the upgrade. It is believed that the first aircraft have already been taken in hand for re-building and upgradation. The IAF has recently earmarked some US$ 200 million for the upgrade of 50 aircraft for this financial year. It is expected that at least 140 of the 180 aircraft will be upgraded as part of this program.

Update parameters for the MiG-27 are as follows:

  1. Performance improvement for multi-mission tasks including accurate ground attacks and Stand off precision attacks, offensive air support and suppression of ground air defenses
  2. Installation of modern flexible system architecture to reduce pilot's workload and thus increase efficiency through better man-machine interface.
  3. Modern weapon integration to enhance mission capability
  4. Enhancement of mission reliability.
  5. Fitment of a sophisticated EW suite to enhance survivability in hostile electronic environment, enhancement of the pilot's comfort and efficiency through improvement in cockpit air-conditioning;
  6. Increase in aircraft range with in-flight refueling
  7. Finally reduction in the maintenance requirements.

The capabilities of the aircraft are being enhanced by the incorporation of modern avionics systems consisting primarily of two Multi-Function Displays (MFDs) Mission and Display Processor (MDP), Sextant Ring Laser Gyros (RLG INSI), combined GPS/GLANOSS navigation, HUD with UFCP, Digital Map Generator (DMG), jam-resistant Secured Communication, stand-by UHF communication, data link and a comprehensive Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite. A mission planning and retrieval facility, VTR and HUD Camera will also be fitted. The aircraft will retain stand-by (conventional) instrumentation, including artificial horizon, altimeter and airspeed indicator, to cater for the failure of HUD and the MFDs.

Litening LDP

The installation of a new Radar Warning System together with automated flare and chaff dispensers will bring the MiG-27s up to modified MiG-23BN standards as far as countermeasures are concerned. Sensor updates include Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR), Laser Designation Pod (LDP), L-Band Homer and Reconnaissance Pods. It is believed that the Israeli Litening pod has been selected as to fit the FLIR/LDP requirements. The system is already in use with the IAF and was combat proven during the Kargil war of 1999. Indeed the decision to go for a podded system rather than an integral one was dictated by the flexibility that such systems offer. The British Vinten VICON 18 Srs 601GP(-1) 241 kg (531 lb) long-range (450 mm lens) optical pod has been selected as the standard recce pod and has already entered IAF service. The MiG-27s are also being endowed with radar capability. To this end, it is believed that trials with the Russian Komar pod mounted radar have already begun. The Komar is a light weight version of the multi-mode Super Kopyo being installed on Indian MiG-21s as part of the its upgrade program. The installation of the radar would give the MiG-27s anti-ship and some air-to-air capability. Other foreign equipment that form part of the upgrade include Data Link systems and Night Vision Goggles (NVG).

HAL (Hyderabad Division) systems being considered are Secured Communication System INCOM-1210A, radio altimeter RAM-1701A, 1FF- 1410A and stand-by UHF Communication System COM-1150A, Besides the existing conventional weapons, new weapons such as 1000 lb laser guided bombs. For improvement in cockpit air-conditioning, a new turbo cooler will be installed. The system developed by HAL (Lucknow Division) is capable of handling an additional mass flow of 250 kg/hr which would reduce the cockpit temperature by some 7C. Indications are that the existing Weapon Control System has been retained, but a new weapon interface box has been developed for the integration of new weapons. For in-flight refueling, a non-retractable in-flight refueling probe is being installed. The whole process will necessitate modifications to the structure, plus aircraft fuel and gauging systems. Alongside, an oxygen storage facility (now limited to supply for about two hours) will be increased by providing additional cylinders. The aircraft’s systems will be mated with the next generation of PGMs now entering IAF service.

The upgraded aircraft will offer the IAF strike force greater flexibility and keep the MiG-27 force viable well into the first quarter of the 21st Century.

Copyright Bharat Rakshak