Russia has delivered the first three of the upgraded MiG-29 fighters to India, more than two years behind schedule.

The planes were flown to India aboard an AN-124 heavy lift transport aircraft, the MiG Corporation said in a statement on Monday.

The modernisation has added punch and versatility to the potent platform. Originally designed as an air superiority fighter, the upgraded planes have been equipped with air-to-surface missiles to engage ground targets.

The MiG-29s have been equipped with new avionics, weapons, radar, glass cockpit, helmet-mounted displays and an inflight refuelling system.

The MiG statement said that as per the contract, the plane’s service life has been extended to 3,500 flight hours and 40 years.

Repeated delays

Under a $1-billion contract signed in 2008, Russia is to upgrade the Indian Air Force’s fleet of 63 MiG-29s. The first six planes are to be overhauled in Russia and the rest in India. Russia was to begin deliveries in March 2010 but the programme faced repeated delays.

Describing the delivery of the three upgraded planes as the first step in the execution of the contract, MiG Director-General Sergei Korotkov said his company was making preparations for the second stage, “which involves modernisation of the fighters in India in close cooperation with Indian industry.”