Its MiG-29s have had reliability problems, but India needs them too much, and has to upgrade them. Planned buys have taken too long, and the IAF is dealing with the same fighter modernization numbers crisis that affects a number of air forces around the world. Its MiG-21s are retiring fast, and so are the subsequent generation of MiG-23/27 and MiG-25 aircraft. At the same time, India’s locally-developed Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) program has been beset by numerous problems and ongoing delays, raising questions concerning its readiness and ability to begin filling some of that void in time. India’s MMRCA light-medium fighter competition will fill other gaps with 126 imported fighters, but it has yet to produce a contract, let alone a delivery date.
As the timelines for replacements stretch, more upgrades became necessary to keep their existing fleet viable. In February 2006, reports confirmed India’s existing fleet of MiG-29B, MiG-29S, and two-seat MiG-29UB “Baaz” (Falcon) aircraft as candidates. December 2006 reports indicated that a contract had been signed, but the deal wasn’t finalized until March 2008. Instead of arriving by 2010, therefore, they began arriving in 2013, at the MiG-29 fleet’s air base in the Punjab region, overlooking Pakistan and Kashmir.