India: After multiple mishaps, IAF to retire entire MiG-21 fleet by 2025

In the last 20 months, 6 of these aircraft were lost in crashes, in which five pilots died


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Published: Fri 29 Jul 2022, 12:36 PM

Amid recent crashes involving its vintage Russian combat aircraft fleet, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is now going to retire one more squadron of the MiG-21 Bison aircraft by September 30.

On Thursday evening, a MiG-21 Type 69 Trainer aircraft crashed in Barmer, Rajasthan killing both the pilots, including a youngster, Flight Lieutenant A Bal, and Wing Commander Rana.

"The 51 Squadron based out of Srinagar air base is being number plated on September 30. After this, only three squadrons of the planes would be left in service and would be phased out by the year 2025," said IAF sources to ANI.

Now every year, one squadron each of these planes would be number plated, they added.

The 51 squadron is famous for thwarting Pakistan's aerial attack on India— on February 27, 2019— and for taking out an F-16 in an aircraft flown by Wing Commander (now Group Captain) Abhinandan Varthaman. This is the only instance when a MiG-21 aircraft brought down an F-16 in air-to-air combat, the sources had said.

The IAF has been replacing the MiG-21 fighter jets with more capable aircraft like the Su-30 and the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

In the last 20 months, 6 MiG-21s were lost in crashes, in which five pilots lost their lives.

The MiG-21s were supposed to be retired a long time ago, but delays in the induction of the LCA Tejas aircraft have forced the IAF to continue flying these planes.

The IAF carries out extensive checks on these planes before flying, and all safety aspects are taken care of, before the pilot takes off, the officials stated.

The number-plated squadron(s) will be reactivated soon with more capable aircraft in the near future, the officials concluded.


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