Sri Lanka has dropped a plan to acquire the Mikoyan MiG-29, a fourth generation multi-role jet fighter currently in service in over 30 countries.
Well informed sources said that the government, despite severe financial constraints, wanted to order the Russian fighter to strengthen SLAF jet squadrons. Sources said that though they believed the available SLAF firepower was adequate to take on the LTTE in the East during war, a mega boost was needed ahead of the Vanni campaign.
Sources said now that the LTTE had been defeated, the country could put off the plan and the SLAF had acquired two pairs of Chinese F7 GS jets with in-built radar early last year. Although they were capable of firing air to air missiles and adequate to meet our requirement at the moment, they weren’t a match for the MiG 29, sources said.
F7 GS are capable of carrying four heat seeking missiles and are credited with the solitary shooting down of an LTTE aircraft over Iranapalai late last year.
The Katunayake-based jets including Israeli Kfirs (No 10 squadron), MiG 27 (No 12) and F7 (No 5) numbered 26 besides one two-seater MiG 23 trainer, sources said. They had carried out about 2,600 missions during the eelam war IV with the Kfirs taking the credit for the most number of bombing raids.
Sources said that had Sri Lanka gone ahead with the acquisition of MiG 29s it would have been perhaps one of the costliest armaments transactions undertaken by the government.
A veteran fighter pilot, speaking on the condition of anonymity told The Island that though the country wouldn’t go for the Russian fighter now, it should be Sri Lanka’s first choice when a replacement was sought for the Kfirs and MiG-27s.