NEW DELHI, March 6 (RIA Novosti) - India decommissioned on Friday its last MiG-23 Flogger fighter-bomber, a Soviet era aircraft in service with the Indian air force for 28 years, a Defense Ministry official said.
"It was the best ground support aircraft we have ever had," the source said.
India's fighter fleet has boasted 70 MiG-23BN and MiG-23MF aircraft since the beginning of the 1980s. The planes were used extensively in military encounters with neighboring Pakistan.
During the Kargil War with Pakistan in 1999, MiG-23s played an important role in supporting an Indian ground offensive in the Kashmir region.
However, steep maintenance costs and the lack of spare parts for the outdated aircraft led to its decommissioning.
India is replacing the old MiG-21 and MiG-23 aircraft with new Su-30MKI multi-role fighters, which are produced under a Russian license by India's Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and entered service with the IAF in 2002.
India signed a deal with Russia to manufacture 140 Su-30 fighters in late 1990s, and ordered 40 additional Su-30s in 2007.
With a strength of approximately 170,000 personnel and 1,130 combat aircraft in active service, the Indian Air Force is the fourth largest in the world.
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