MiG-21 Jet in India – An Overview

The MiG-21 is among the six fighter jets flown by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and has been the backbone of the force for a long time. The MiG-21 is a fighter aircraft that is capable of performing a range of roles and can be used for both air-to-air and ground attacks. It has a single engine and can seat only one person. It was first inducted into the IAF in 1963 as an interceptor aircraft and was later upgraded to perform various roles, including ground attack. Over 700 MiG-21 aircraft of different variants have been procured by India since then, with the latest variant being the MiG-21 Bison. Over 100 MiG-21s with the IAF have been upgraded to Bison since 2006.

MiG-21’s History and Role in Wars

The MiG-21 has proved its mettle in several wars fought by India, including the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, where the Type 77 variant played a crucial role in India’s favor. It was also one of the mainstay fighter jets in the 1965 and 1999 Kargil conflicts with Pakistan. In 2019, a MiG-21 Bison flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman downed an F-16 aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force.

Safety Record and Phasing Out of the MiG-21

As per government records, nearly 500 MiG-21 aircraft have crashed in the last 60 years, resulting in the death of more than 170 pilots. In July of last year, a trainer version of the fighter aircraft crashed, leading to the death of two pilots on board. In 2021, five MiG-21 Bison crashes occurred, resulting in the loss of three pilots. The reasons for these crashes have varied, including technical defects, human error, bird strikes, or spatial disorientation of pilots in certain situations.

The IAF has three squadrons of MiG-21 Bison aircraft currently in service, planned to be phased out by December 2025. The IAF continues to fly the MiG aircraft to maintain its squadron strength until the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas squadrons replace them. The phasing out of the fighter jets earlier would bring down the IAF’s fighter squadron strength to dangerously low levels.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *