Last weekend, I managed to capture a very rare catch for Bangalore. It was the very first prototype of the upgraded MiG-27ML “Bahadur” (Valiant) of the Indian Air Force (IAF) tail number TU640 (originally TS640).
The MiG-27 is a dedicated ground attack aircraft. Developed in the 1970s the MiG-27 shares the basic airframe of the MiG-23, but with a stronger undercarriage, simpler intakes and a shorter exhaust nozzle,. Radar has been sacrificed in favour of a downward-sloping nose profile for improved pilot visibility, a laser range-finder and marked-target seeker which suits its ground attack role. The upgraded landing gear facilitates operations from poorer-quality front-line airfields.
A special feature of the MiG-27 is the large ventral tail fin which must be folded up while landing, taking-off, and on-ground. So while other pilots confirm “three greens down and locked” to the ATC while landing (indicating three under-carriage), MiG-27 pilots confirm “four greens”, the additional being the tail fin.
The MiG-27ML fighter bomber is the export version developed for the Indian Air Force. Manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) at Nashik, it is called “Bahadur” which translates to “Valiant”. On January 11, 1986 the first Indian MiG-27 was completed using parts from the Irkutsk, USSR plant, and in 1988, the Indian-made “Bahadur” aircraft production started.
In January 2002, the IAF commenced a Service Life Extension Programme (SLEP) for 40 of its MiG-27ML aircraft. The HAL Aircraft Upgrade Research & Design Centre (AURDC) prepared two prototype “upgrade” aircraft. The first was tail number TS640, re-numbered to TU640 (reflecting upgrade), which made its maiden flight on March 25, 2004. This is the plane I captured in its now fading celebration paint scheme. It is also the first time I have captured a military aircraft doing a smokin touchdown.
A friend, and former official photographer of the Indian Air Force, Wing Commander Rakesh Chauhan has taken this great photo of a MiG-27ML Bahadur up close (observe the folded tail fin). Also take the time to check out his website.