The MIG27 affair - Fighter Pilots reveal what the "defence analysts"
forgot to tell
procurement of MIG 27 fighter jets was purely made by the GoSL to attack
the LTTE terrorists who are making desperate attempts to divide the
Island. The GoSL made this decision as another step in the right
direction since the LTTE continues to threaten the lives of 19 million
Sri Lankans irrespective of the 2002 ceasefire agreement. In other
words, the fighters were purchased to save the lives of the SL citizens
by destroying a terror outfit that murders the people of this country.
However, the procurement of MIG 27 fighters seems to have hurt certain
segments other than the LTTE.
Some political scum and barrack room defence analysts
have been engaged in an absurd campaign against the Defence Ministry
even before the deal was actually made. Defence.lk has once edified its
viewers on how the MIG 27 was selected and procured in detail.
Now, the United National Party (UNP) has again taken
up the issue, may be as a part of its leaders "brilliant" strategy to
get popular by belittling the security forces. A report known as "a
comprehensive study" on MIG 27 deal was issued to media by the UNP last
week. Also, some "defence analysts' whose analysis could easily be
doctored with few dollars, have written lengthy reports to support the
UNP's view by bringing up some bovine arguments.
It is our duty to give all right thinking Sri Lankans
the correct picture. Therefore, defence.lk team met with a panel of
senior Air force personnel including the Director Aeronautical
Engineering and the Commanding Officer of the MIG-27 squadron.
The Interview in Full
Defence.lk: How do you describe the MIG 27 fighter?
MIG 27 fighter is a fighter jet specially designed to
carry out attacks at moving or static targets on the ground. It was
built by the former Soviet Union in early 80s. Later, India also started
assembling the aircraft. It is still flown in some countries including
India as one of the main air arm against ground targets.
Defence.lk: How and why did the SLAF go for MIG 27?
MIG 27 was initially bought for SLAF in the year 2000,
when the LTTE launched a massive terror attack at security forces
in the North and Wanni frontiers. The attack was called "unceasing wave
3" by the LTTE. At that time we lacked the capability to engage ground
targets and therefore, could not give the much needed assistance to our
ground forces effectively. Air Force after a detail study on war planes
available in the market found out that MIG 27 as the ideal aircraft that
could fulfill our requirements. Then a proposal was made to the then
Commander of the Air Force and six MIG 27 aircraft and a MIG 23 trainer
were bought to meet the immediate requirements. That is how MIG 27
became a part of the SLAF combat fleet.
Defence.lk: Was it effective?
Yes of course. MIG 27s contributed immensely to crush
the LTTE's unceasing wave 3 and shatter its dream to capture the Jaffna
Defence.lk: Why MIG 27, why not some other fighter
There are many reasons
Firstly, MIG27 is one of the few affordable
fighter jets to GoSL in the global defence market. There are of course
more advanced, sophisticated fighters like F-16, F117... of US, Mirage
of France, and etc..., but it is a well known fact that many of those
weapons are either dedicated to the country or offered only to selected
countries in accordance with various defence agreements and policies.
Sometimes, we can even make a fleet of MIG 27 fighters with a unit price
of some of the hi-tech aircraft.
Secondly, by the year 2000, we had only Israeli
built Kfir and Chinese built F-7 fighters. Kfir was of course a good
multi role aircraft that could accurately achieve ground targets and F-7
on the other hand has very little ground attack capabilities. Yet, both
Kfirs and F7s lack endurance to carry sufficient loads of bombs in one
sortie. For example, a MIG 27 can carry eight 500Kg bombs in one sortie
from Katunayaka to Jaffna, where as Kfir can carry only two 500Kg bombs,
and for the F-7 it is only two 250Kg bombs.
Thirdly, MIG 27 has special features that
reduce the risk to the pilot when manoeuvring at very low altitudes (at
tree top height) to get more accurate hits. We would not explain this
further since the terrorists may get undue advantage on such
information. Perhaps, the very reason for making such absurd campaigns
against the security forces is to unravel vital information to the
terrorists. For an example , unless this baseless controversy was built
around the MIG deal, the terrorists may still not have known the actual
strength of our combat fleet.
Lastly, Price of Kfir jets is higher than
MIG27s and its maintenance cost is also very high. On the other hand,
MIG27 has several suppliers of spare parts and technical consultation so
that the supplier has lesser power to charge unrealistic costs of
Defence.lk: What is the best aircraft Kfir or
It is wrong to say one is superior to the other. Both
are good fighters against ground targets, but it is the combination of
these two aircraft that matters most. For instance, Kfir has a more
accurate weapon system than MIG27 and therefore can be used effectively
against moving or small targets on the ground or at Sea. Yet, it is the
MIG27 that can safely fly at low altitudes and deliver devastating
impact on the enemy targets and therefore can effectively be used
against large enemy camps, weapon dumps, gun positions and etc. The full
potential of the both aircraft can be achieved when used in combination
rather than taken alone.
Defence.lk: How about their chronological ages,
some critics argue that Kfir is younger than MIG?
Neither Kfir nor MIG27 models we presently have in
SLAF are produced by the manufacturers any longer. But, they are still
operational in some countries. For instance, Indian Air Force has five
MIG27 fighter squadrons and the aircraft is still used as a key
air arm against ground targets. Both aircraft were manufactured in early
80s, and therefore are equally old.
Defence.lk: Why did SLAF go for MIG27 for the
Apart from the other reasons explained above, it was
still the best option in terms of cost effectiveness and operational
Firstly, we already had an established
squadron, trained fighter pilots, technical staff, spare parts and other
facilities to get on the operations as soon as we get the fighters. We
also had three MIG 27 aircraft and a trainer (MIG 23) which had been
grounded for over two years.
Secondly, there was a vacuum in the country's
air defence system since the SLAF's airpower was limited to the Kfirs
and F7s. The threat was so imminent that the LTTE was planning to
carryout a massive attack against the security force in multiple fronts.
Please note that the Air Force proactively proposed to enhance its
fighting capability by the end of year 2005. The proposal was made in
February 2006 and the aircraft were available by January 2007. If we had
to go for a new model of aircraft it would take us another six months to
set up the necessary infrastructure and to train necessary personnel.
Defence.lk: What is the contribution made by the
MIG 27 fighters in the recent battles?
MIG 27 fighters played a vital strategic role in the
battle fought to liberate the Eastern Province from the terrorists. It
was extensively used in the battle in the Thoppigala area against LTTE's
gun positions, camps and hideouts. Further, SLAF also carried out
sporadic air raids at well identified LTTE targets in Wanni in order to
weaken the enemy's ability to reinforce the eastern front. For instance
we have targeted their fuel storages, communication centres, training
facilities etc. Therefore, the aircraft has played an excellent
strategic role as a ground attack as well as a ground support air arm.
Defence.lk : Now, let us look into this particular
deal, some people who call themselves "defence analysts" argue that the
MIG 27s are not worth buying and also a media release issued by a
political party said that the aircraft were defunct. What is the truth?
Well, if it is defunct how could we achieve such
feats? It is not defunct but it is the deadliest weapon that SLAF has
against the LTTE terrorists. Probably those people like the LTTE
terrorists want the MIGs to be defunct.
Defence.lk: Their argument is that the life span of
the aircraft has been expired, how do you clarify this?
Well the argument itself shows the incompetence or may
be the hidden agenda of the so called "defence analysts". When we buy a
fighter aircraft it is not the physical thing that is important, but
it's the capability or the potential flying hours that matters most. In
other words we buy potential flying hours along with the physical
aircraft. A fighter that cannot fly is nothing but a piece of metal.
MIG 27 is designed to fly 2500 flying hours without a
calendar year or time restriction, provided that correct overhauls are
made at the correct time.
Defence.lk: What are those overhauls?
Overhauls are major refurbishments done to the
aircraft to extend its serviceability. This is mainly because of the
engine wear and tare, and the effects on the airframe and other
equipment due to stress caused by G-loads (gravity) etc.
For MIG 27 fighters' overhauls are to be made at every
eighth year or completion of every 850 flying hours, from the date of
manufacture or the last overhaul date, irrespective of whatever comes
first. This is to say that even if the aircraft was on the ground for
eight years from the date of manufacture or after the last overhauled
date, it should be overhauled again before flying. On the other hand, if
the aircraft fly 850 hours even within one year from the date of
manufacture, still it has to be overhauled before put into the air. It
is unbecoming of a defence analyst to be oblivious on such simple facts.
Defence.lk: How about the serviceability of the
earlier batches of MIG27 fighters those were procured in 2000?
The first batches of the MIG 27s that we purchased in
the year 2000 had been last overhauled in 1992 and had flown for only
5-10 hours since then. Therefore, the calendar life span of eight years
was almost finished for the aircraft. Since the aircraft had been in
Ukraine and not flown very much since the last overhaul date, they were
cleared for two years of guaranteed operational lives up to 2002 by Lviv
State Aircraft Repair Plant, Ukraine.
Thus, we had bought two years of operational
capability with the physical aircraft at a unit cost of US$ 1.8 million
in the first batch and US$ 1.7 million for the second batch. We also
bought a trainer which had only two years remaining life for calendar
period for next overhaul at a cost of US$ 0.9 million in the second
batch. The decision was made because of the requirement to train local
pilots to fly the fighters as soon as possible. Remember none of these
aircraft were overhauled or serviced before they were taken over by the
SLAF from the D.S. Alliance, Singapore.
By the end of year 2002, the operational life span of
all remaining MIG 27 fighters and the MIG 23 trainer were ended. Further
extension of two years life span was recommended up to 2004 after two
separate inspections conducted in 2002 and 2003 by the Ukraine experts.
For these annual inspections only, the SLAF had to pay US$ 155,000 in
each year to the D.S Alliance. A person with understanding of simple
Arithmetic can calculate the large difference between the prices that
SLAF had to pay for one operational year of aircraft in the two separate
deals; that is the one with the D.S. Alliance in 2000 and with the
Ukrinmash in 2006.
For detailed comparison of the prices please read -
MIG 27 inside
Defence.lk : How about the serviceability of the
newly purchased MIG 27s?
The newly purchased aircraft were also there at the
Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant, Ukraine, when we went there in the
year 2000 to buy the first two batches from the D.S. Alliance. There is
no difference in features. Yet, unlike in the previous occasion, we
bought them after the overhauls had been completed and therefore with
eight years of operational capability or with 850 flying hours per each
aircraft. This is the reality that the so called "defence analysts" have
tried to conceal. As we stated earlier, the value addition of a fighter
aircraft must not be determined by the number of physical frames only.
It is the number of flying hours or the amount of fighting capability we
get that really adds value to the Air Force.
Defence.lk: But the critics say that the Air Force
had rejected these aircraft in 2000, when they had been offered for
That is also a weird falsification of facts to mislead
the general public. At the previous deal with the D.S Alliance we could
only afford to buy six fighters. So we chose six out of many other
aircraft at the Lviv State Aircraft plant that looks most suitable. It
is not understandable why someone should interpret that we rejected
others because we chose only the six that had less flying hours and
latest manufacture dates. For example, if somebody buys six vehicles he
wanted from a dealer who has many similar vehicles in the yard, does it
mean that the buyer has condemned the other vehicles as unsuitable? It
is an absurd argument.
Defence.lk: Then what about the prices, the critics
point out that the aircraft were available at US$1.7-1.8 million while
you have bought them at a price of US$ 2.5 million. How would you defend
Yes, we could have bought them at price mentioned at
that time if we had the money. But remember the aircraft had only 2
years of life span while now we have bought them with eight years of
life span. Just calculate the cost paid for a year; in the year 2000
deal we had bought one operational year at a cost of US$ 0.9 million
(1.8 /2). But, in the year 2006 deal we have bought one operational year
at a cost of only US$ 0.31 million (2.5/8).
Defence.lk: What happens to your argument if the
flying hours are expired in a short time? Will it be still valid?
Yes. For a fighter aircraft 850 hours mean a long
time. They have only less endurance and are used only for short
shuttles. In Sri Lanka, average time of a mission is about 1 hour
maximum. It would be very unrealistic to think all flying hours of a
fighter fleet with seven fighters would exhaust in a short time span.
Even in the intense battle situation in the recent past we have
conducted only about 250 sorties within last six months. Therefore,
there is a close relationship between the flying hours and the
chronological life span of a MIG 27 fighter which is deployed for an
Defence.lk : What about the pilot trainer it was
bought around for US$ 0.9 million, but its cost of overhaul seems to be
higher than the purchase price. How do you describe this?
Yes. The overhaul cost depends on the work scope. If
you check the offer made by D.S Alliance for the overhaul cost of the UB
trainer (MIG 23) in 2004 you would find that it was US$ 1.2 million.
Such arguments are baseless and show the lack of knowledge of the
persons who raised them.
"MIG 27 inside story" for more details
Defence.lk : How was this deal orchestrated . Was
it really A Government to Government deal (G2G) deal or not?
It is a Government to Government deal. The offer was
made directly to the GoSL by the Ukrinmash and the contract was signed
between two authorities that represent the Governments of the two
Defence.lk: What is Ukrinmash? Does it represent
Yes. Ukrinmash is a self supporting foreign trade and
investment firm and a subsidiary of Ukrspetsexport which is a state
owned institution. All exports of military items from the Ukraine must
be channelled through Ukrinmash. Remember, Ukrinmash is not an aircraft
manufacturing or technical company; it is just the trade arm for
military exports. Under Ukrinmash there are three plants involved with
MIG aircraft namely, Lviv, Lugansk and Odeza. Lviv plant basically works
on the aircraft while the Lugansk is specialized on the aircraft
engines. According to the Ukrainian law none of these plants can engage
in direct trade with any other foreign body other than through Ukrinmash.
Therefore, Ukrinmash represents the Ukrainian
Government when it comes to the export trade of military hardware to
foreign nations. The critics seem to mislead the public by trying to
make them to believe that the agreement should be signed by a Minister
of Ukraine to make it a G2G deal, but it is wrong.
Defence.lk : Then, what is D.S Alliance?
It is a privately owned company that acts as an agent
for Ukrinmash. Remember in the previous deal, D.S alliance has got all
the quotations from Ukrinmash and offered to the GoSL after adding
company commissions to the original quotation.
In the present contract, GoSL traded directly with
Ukrinmash and therefore could avoid paying unnecessary commissions to an
intermediate party. In the year 2000 deal the GoSL had signed a contract
with the D.S. Alliance but not with Ukrinmash.
Defence.lk : What is the role of Bellimissa
It is also a privately owned company that Ukrinmash
has indicated as its financer in the offer. Why the particular company
was selected was only known to Ukrinmash officials. In the initial offer
itself, Ukrinmash said that it would indicate a financer to whom the
payments to be made prior to the signing of the contract.
Since the contract is done through differed payment
scheme, there would be an obvious need of a financer to provide money to
the plants to carryout the project. SL Government contracted with
Ukrinmash but not with any other. Belllimissa Holding is a designated
party by Ukrimash as its financer for the project.
Defence.lk : What is the difference between
Bellimissa Holdings and Ukrinmash in contractual terms?
The GoSL in the year 2000 deal signed the contract
with D.S. Alliance, a Singapore based company, but not with Ukrinmash.
In other words we had bought the aircraft from D.S Alliance and not from
the Government of Ukraine. For instance, if the aircraft had failed to
deliver required serviceability during its guarantee period, it was D.S
Alliance that would be held answerable but not Ukrinmash.
On the other hand, Bellimissa Holdings is not the
provider of the aircraft in the year 2006 deal. The contractual terms
with regard to the aircraft serviceability is only lying between the
GoSL and Ukrinmash but not with Bellimissa Holdings.
Defence.lk : Finally, what is your idea on the MIG
27 deal? Is it a shabby and a shady deal?
It is not for us to comment on the monitory matters.
But it is crystal clear to anybody that the Ukrinmash deal has saved
large amount of money to the country. For example we had paid US$ 0.9
million for one year of operational life span of a fighter at the
earlier deal. But in the latest deal we paid only US$ 0.3 million for
the same operational year. This only has saved US$ 0.6 million from each
aircraft that had been purchased in the Year 2006 deal.
Further, once we take the reduction of freight
charges, the easy payment scheme, increase of life span and finally the
increase of the fighting capability, there is huge value addition for
the Air Force in the 2006 MIG deal over the year 2000 deal.
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