Srinagar: India deployed a squadron of enhanced MiG-29 fighter jets at the Srinagar air base to handle threats from both the Pakistani and Chinese fronts.
The Tridents squadron, also called the ‘Defender of the North’, has replaced the MiG-21 squadron at the Srinagar base.
The Srinagar base has been responsible for tackling threats from Pakistan.
Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Squadron Leader Vipul Sharma said, “As Srinagar lies in the centre of Kashmir, its altitude is higher than plains, so it is better to place an aircraft with a higher weight-to-thrust ratio and lower response time considering the proximity to the border.” He said it is also equipped with better avionics and long-range missiles.
“The MiG-29 fulfils all these criteria due to which we are capable of taking on the enemies on both fronts,” Squadron Leader Sharma said.
The MiG-29 has several benefits over MiG-21 aircraft.
The MiG-21 has been successfully defending the area of their responsibility in Kashmir.
It was also successful in striking down an F-16 in 2019 after the Balakot air strikes on Pakistani terrorist camps.
The MiG-29 is armed with lethal ammunition making use of the emergency access powers the government has given to the armed forces.
After the improvements, the aircraft is also equipped with very long-range air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground arms.
The aircraft can jam the enemy aircraft’s capabilities during a dispute, officials said.
Another pilot, Squadron Leader Shivam Rana said, “The fighter jets can operate at night as they have been enhanced with night vision goggles.”
MiG-29 has a longer range because of its capacity for air-to-air refuelling.
Squadron Leader Rana said that previously the aircraft did not have the air-to-ground weaponry, but it had been added now.
“The biggest capability of the aircraft are the pilots which are handpicked by the IAF to serve on these aircraft,” he said.
The MiG-29 aircrafts were moved to Srinagar in January this year. The MiG-29s have flown thoroughly in Kashmir and also along the Ladakh sector where they would be the first responders in case of an air space violation by the Chinese.