Sri Lanka eyes MiG-29s to replace ageing fighters

March 21, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s air force is considering buying MiG-29 jet fighters to replace its ageing fleet of supersonic aircraft, the top air force officer said Wednesday.

Commander Roshan Goonetileke said Sri Lanka was looking at the 1977 Soviet vintage MiG-29 combat aircraft, refurbished in the Ukraine, to replace Sri Lanka’s fleet of MiG-27 planes, as well as the Israeli-built Kfir and Chinese F-7 planes.

“We’re looking at the MiG-29 because we’re already flying the MiG-27,” Goonetileke said, adding a transition from the 1972 vintage MiG-27 to the 1977 MiG-29 would be easier.

Sri Lanka’s air force has bought 10 MiG-27 planes and one MiG-23 trainer aircraft since 2000, when Tamil Tiger guerrillas escalated attacks against government forces.

The air force currently operates four MiG-27 planes, while three have been grounded for major overhauls.

Tamil Tiger rebels destroyed more than a dozen military aircraft parked at a base adjoining the international airport in July 2001. Among the planes destroyed was a MiG-27 swing-wing aircraft.

In August 2001, a MiG-27 crashed near the international airport while a Ukrainian pilot attempted aerobatics.