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Sunday, June 4, 2023
WorldAsiaCoffin became MiG 21 fighter plane!

Coffin became MiG 21 fighter plane!


– Ramesh Sarraf Dhamora

The Indian Air Force has temporarily grounded its entire fleet of MiG-21 fighter aircraft. This decision has been taken in view of frequent accidents. A MiG-21 aircraft during a routine training sortie crashed on houses in a populated area near Suratgarh in Rajasthan on May 8. Three women lost their lives in that accident. The Air Force has stopped their flight till the investigation of this accident is completed.

Now people have even started calling them the flying coffins of death. Some people have started calling them Flying Coffin and Widow Maker. There has been a demand to take them out of the army permanently. According to a report, more than 400 MiG-21 aircraft of the Indian Air Force have crashed in the last 60 years. In these, more than 200 pilots and 63 civilians have lost their lives. At present, the Air Force has three squadrons of MiG-21 Bison. They will be phased out from the Air Force in early 2025.

The MiG-21 was inducted into the Indian Air Force in the 1960s. At one time it was included in the world’s most powerful fighter plane. Countries like America were also afraid of its high speed and firepower. This is the only fighter plane that has been used in more than 60 countries around the world. So far 11 thousand 496 units of this fighter aircraft have been manufactured. The MiG-21 is the first supersonic jet aircraft in aviation history. It was the best selling fighter plane in the world in the seventies.

The MiG-21 is the same fighter plane from which Wing Commander Abhinandan of the Indian Air Force shot down Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jet. Although his MiG 21 had crashed. Apart from this, the MiG-21 has also played an important role in the 1971 and 1999 Kargil wars with Pakistan. The MiG-21 Bison fighter jets are now being used only as interceptors. They are used mostly for training exercises with a limited role as fighter jets. This aircraft is capable of attacking with aircraft short range and medium range aircraft missiles. The speed of this fighter aircraft is 2229 kilometers per hour.

The Soviet Air Force, which made the MiG 21 fighter aircraft, removed it from its Air Force in 1985 itself. Bangladesh and Afghanistan also removed it from service after 1985. In India too, his retirement period was completed in the mid-1990s. Despite this, they are being upgraded. In October 2014, the then IAF chief had said that the delay in decommissioning the old aircraft posed a threat to India’s security as some of the aircraft in the IAF fleet were very old.

The delay in inducting the new fighter jets has resulted in the Indian Air Force keeping the MiG 21 aircraft in service for a long time. The main reason for the delay is the shortage faced by the IAF to maintain a certain number of squadron strength to defend India’s skies. The delay in the indigenous Tejas programme, the political controversy over the Rafale deal and the slow-moving procurement process have resulted in the MiG 21 being kept in service for longer than usual.

In July 2022, the Indian Air Force prepared a three-year action plan to phase out all remaining MiG-21 fighter squadrons. One of these squadrons is due to retire in September. At one point of time, the MiG-21 aircraft with all its variants formed the backbone of the fighter aircraft fleet of the Indian Air Force. At the same time, the number of accidents in the Air Force was also the highest among MiG 21 aircraft.

The Indian Air Force was flying MiG-21 fighter jets under compulsion. The Indian Air Force needs 42 squadrons of fighter jets to face Pakistan and China on two fronts. But India currently has only 32 squadrons. These also include three squadrons of MiG-21. The main reason for the shortage of fighter jets with the Indian Air Force is the non-purchase of fighter jets for a long time. In 2016, two squadrons of aircraft were procured from France.

Orders have been placed with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to buy 83 units of indigenous fighter aircraft Tejas made in India. It will take time to supply them. In such a situation, the Air Force needs fighter planes to meet the immediate requirements. India has invited global bids for the purchase of 114 fighter jets. The Government of India will spend an amount of more than one lakh crore rupees on the purchase of these multirole fighter aircraft. American, French and Swedish aircraft manufacturers are in the running to bag the deal. From next year, indigenous fighter aircraft Tejas will start getting to the Air Force. After this, it is expected that in the coming four-five years, the Indian Air Force will have more than 40 squadrons.

In our country, the process of procurement of planes and helicopters for the Air Force is slow. Defense Minister Rajnath Singh had announced that 12 Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter jets and 21 MiG 29 aircraft damaged in various accidents would soon be procured and handed over to the Air Force to restore their numbers in the Air Force fleet. But even this deal is still going on at the negotiation stage. If the said deal is completed soon, the Indian Air Force will get 33 more fighter aircraft. The Air Force has taken a commendable decision by stopping the flights of MiG-21 fighter jets. In the Suratgarh accident, it was a matter of honor that the pilot tried to take the plane away from the dense population. Due to this, a big accident was saved.

(The author is associated with Hindusthan Samachar.)

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