MiG 21 aircraft
Representational photo | MiG 21 aircraft | Wikimedia commons
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New Delhi: Critics and some experts have questioned the rationale of using the MiG-21 aircraft in Combat Air Patrol (CAP) Wednesday, when India lost at least one fighter against Pakistan’s F-16s.

However, sources in the Indian Air Force defended the use of the MiG-21, saying it was one of the fighters in its inventory and that aircraft are rotated based on operations, time and threat level.

What happened Wednesday

At around 1005 hours Wednesday, three F-16s of the Pakistan Air Force violated Indian air space and entered into the Nowshera sector. They targeted four military installations and dropped bombs.

The Indian Air Force, which was on high alert, swung into action. At least two MiG-21 Bisons, which were on CAP duty, chased the F-16s and were even able to shoot down one of them.

Pakistan claims the Indian fighters crossed the LoC and were engaged by it, though it hasn’t clarified if they were engaged by its aircraft or air defence systems.

India has confirmed that it lost one MiG-21 Bison and that the pilot is ‘missing in action’. Pakistan claimed to have downed two fighters and captured two pilots, but later clarified the number to be one pilot — Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.

News of Abhinandan’s capture confirmed that it was a MiG-21 Bison that went down, after initial speculation about a MiG-29.


Also read: In Balakot, India tested a new military reaction much different from 2016 surgical strikes


Why MiG-21?

Many questioned why the MiG-21 was used for the CAP and to engage the F-16s. After all, it was first inducted into the IAF 56 years ago, in 1963, and has picked up the nickname ‘Flying Coffin’ due to a spate of crashes in the last couple of decades.

However, IAF sources explained that ever since the alert level was raised immediately after the Pulwama terror attack on 14 February, various fighter aircraft were put on CAP duty.

Tuesday night, a mix of Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs and MiG-29s were in the air through the night. However, in the morning, MiG-21s were put on the duty.

“The MiG-21 is something that we have in our inventory and it would be used for operations. We have had a mixture of aircraft doing CAP, and at the time when the Pakistan Air Force jets came in, the MiG-21s were in the air, and hence, they challenged the F-16s,” an IAF officer said.

The indigenous Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’ was supposed to replace the MiG-21 in the IAF inventory, but due to inordinate delays in the former’s development, the IAF has been forced to drag the MiG-21 along.


Also read: Why India picked IAF over the Army and Navy to hit back at Pakistan


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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry Philip, patrolling is differnt from scrambling an enemy attack. Did your sources in Govt tell you it was a scramble or MIGs detected this accidently , whats the correct situation (LOL, God save us if it was later). Your article need not be written if it was a response to attack!

  2. So because Tejas could not be put into operations, IAF has to carry on with MIG 21 fighters that were put into operation 56 years ago. HAL has missed its deadline to deliver 8 Tejas aircrafts yearly. Will all those apologists of HAL, including politicians and media, apologize to Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who has been captured by the Pakistanis?

  3. Come on. In this day of social media there would be proof if F-16 was shot down. Pakistan has video of IAF aircraft being hit and of wreckage, but India only has words.

  4. As per your article, Pakistan airforce violated Indian airspace and on their return they took one Indian wing commander back to Pakistan.

  5. Mig 21 flying coffin uswd to inter ept attacking planes f16.dont understand how one can fight an AK 47 with a 1960s guns. The enemy need nit do anything for the migs to crash.Shamefull.

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