New Delhi. The Indian Air Force will retire one of its four remaining squadrons of the old MiG-21 fighter aircraft on 30 September. The MiG-21 fighter aircraft has been serving in the Indian Air Force for a long time. This plane is also called the flying coffin, because it has caused many accidents in the last several years in which many soldiers have lost their lives. It is also known as Sword Arms. Wing Commander (now Group Captain) Abhinandan Varthaman was part of it.

Three MiG-21s retiring in 2025

At the same time, IAF’s Mirage-2000 bombed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on February 26, 2019, Indian Air Force eliminated terrorist camp in Balako, Pakistan. The attack was carried out in retaliation for the Pulwama suicide attack in Kashmir, in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were martyred on February 14. If reports are to be believed, the remaining three MiG-21 squadrons will be retired in a phased manner in 2025.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 (Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21)

It is a supersonic fighter jet aircraft manufactured by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau of the Soviet Union. It is also known as “Balalaika”.

Let’s know about MiG-21

MiG-21 is also known as Mikoyan Gurevich. It is one of the advanced fighter aircraft of the Soviet era. It was manufactured by the Mikoyan Company of the Soviet Union (present-day Russia). Let us tell you that it took its first flight in the year 1955 and was inducted in the Indian Air Force in the year 1963. The main reason behind the creation of this aircraft was the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the Western countries. The Soviet Union wanted to answer America and its allies NATO countries through this.

When was inducted into IAF?

The MiG-21 aircraft was inducted into the Indian Air Force in the year 1963. Being one of the most advanced aircraft of that time, India had inducted a total of 874 MiG-21 aircraft in its fleet. Most of these aircraft were manufactured in India. However, now the production of this aircraft has been stopped. India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) upgrades it under license.

There is a long list of accidents caused by MiG-21

The list of accidents in the MiG-21 aircraft of the Indian Air Force is quite long. In the year 2021, about five MiG-21 aircraft were victims of the accident. Earlier, two in 2013, three in 2014, two in 2015, three in 2016, two in 2018, three in 2019 and in 2022 in Barmer, Rajasthan, MiG-21 had crashed in which both the pilots died.

Earlier in the year 2012, the then Defense Minister AK Antony had said in his official statement that since joining the Air Force till 2012 till the year 2012, 482 MiG-21 aircraft had become victims of accidents. In these accidents, 171 pilots, 39 civilians and eight others were killed. Even after this, year after year, these planes continued to be victims of accidents.

What is the specialty of MiG-21 aircraft?

The MiG-21 aircraft is touted as the first supersonic aircraft of the Indian Air Force. These planes have the ability to fly faster than the speed of sound. It is used by more than 60 countries around the world. For India too, the MiG-21 has played the role of a game changer on many important occasions. This aircraft made a significant contribution in the war with Pakistan in 1965, 1971 and 1999.

Four squadrons of MiG-21 aircraft

The Indian Air Force has 4 squadrons of MiG-21 aircraft. The number of fighter planes in a squadron varies from 16 to 18. According to estimates, 64 MiG-21s are available with the Air Force. During the Balakot strike, Wing Commander Abhinandan shot down an F-16 aircraft of the Pakistani Air Force with the same MiG-21.

The flaws of the MiG-21 aircraft

The MiG-21 aircraft is a historical type of aircraft in itself, but being more than half a century old, it has been left far behind in the era of modernity. The Indian Air Force uses its most advanced variant, the MiG-21 Bison. It can be equipped with state-of-the-art BVR missile. However, amidst all the positives, engine technology is the most important thing in fighter jets in modern times and the engine technology of MiG-21 aircraft is now very old. Apart from this, the design and frame of the aircraft are also old-fashioned. This aircraft was retired by Russia in 1985 itself. Apart from this, most of the user countries have also retired it.

Accidents caused by MiG-21 in the year 2021-22

  • 5 January 2021- MiG-21 crashes in Rajasthan, pilot narrowly survived.
  • 17 March 2021- MiG-21 crashes in Gwalior, Group Captain Ashish Gupta killed.
  • 20 May 2021- MiG-21 crashes in Punjab’s Moga, pilot Abhinav Gupta killed.
  • 25 August 2021- MiG-21 crashes in Rajasthan’s Barmer, pilot narrowly escaped.
  • 24 December 2021- MiG-21 aircraft crashes near Jaisalmer, Wing Commander Harshit Sinha killed.
  • 28 July 2022- MiG-21 plane crashes in Rajasthan’s Barmer, two pilots killed.

A total of 21 MiG-21s have been victims of accidents since 2013.

year MIG-21 crash deaths

2013              2                         1

2014              3                         1

2015              2                         0

2016              3                         0

2018              2                         1

2019              3                         0

2021              5                         3

2022              1                         2

Features of MiG-21

  • MiG-21 is a fighter aircraft made by Soviet Russia. Also known as fishbed in the west. For the first time it came into service in 1972. Since then the MiG has undergone many changes.
  • The MiG-21 is capable of carrying a considerable amount of ammunition.
  • There is a provision for firing bullets from the left side of the cockpit. 420 rounds can be carried.
  • Can carry air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles.
  • Many types of bombs weighing up to 1000 kg can also be carried through MiG-21 and rained on the enemy. These also include chemicals and cluster bombs.
  • A total of up to 2000 kg of ammunition can be loaded onto the MiG.
  • The maximum speed of the MiG-21 can be 2230 kilometers per hour.

Abhinandan had shot down Pakistani F-16 from MiG-21 itself.

The MiG-21 Bison is the same fighter aircraft through which the Pakistani F-16 was shot down by Wing Commander Abhinandan of the Indian Air Force after the Balakot airstrike. However, Pakistan has never been able to openly accept this truth. Because, neither the US nor Pakistan was acceptable to defeat the modern fighter aircraft F-16, which is called the backbone of the Pakistani Air Force, from the fighter aircraft of about 60 years old.

Actually, Russia developed it for use only during the Cold War against America. China produces this aircraft under the name Chengdu J-7. India is the third largest country in the world to use this aircraft after Russia and China. However, there is talk of replacing it with the indigenous Tejas fighter aircraft in future.

MiG-21 has the record of fighting the most wars from India’s side

The MiG-21 Bison has participated in the maximum number of wars from the Indian side. Although India has many fighter aircraft, but on most occasions the Indian Air Force uses this fighter aircraft. The operational cost and maintenance of this aircraft is less than many other fighter aircraft.

India produces this aircraft under license at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, so a little help was needed from Russia to upgrade it. It is the best fighter and interceptor fighter aircraft of its class. This is the reason why India still operates this fighter aircraft in large numbers near the LoC and the border with Pakistan.

When Pakistani fighter jets entered Indian airspace after Balakot on February 27, this fighter aircraft, which was patrolling nearby at that time, was the first to be sent by India. A few minutes later, it approached the Pakistani F-16 and engaged in a mission to drive them out. Surprising the F-16 with its speed, it not only forced Pakistani fighters to run back, while Wing Commander Abhinandan shot down a Pakistani F-16 with his MiG-12.

177 crores is the price of a MiG-21

The cost of one unit of MiG-21 fighter aircraft is around Rs 177 crore. When its construction started, its cost was about 20 crore rupees ($2.9 million). It was designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in 1950. It is a single engine fighter aircraft.

Edited By: Versha Singh