Amidst its ongoing efforts to modernize and replace its aging Russian-origin aircraft, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has announced plans to retire its iconic MiG-21 fighter jets and replace them with the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mark 1A. Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari made this significant revelation during a press conference held in Delhi ahead of the Air Force Day celebrations scheduled for October 8th in Prayagraj.
The Transition from MiG-21 to LCA Mark 1A
Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari disclosed that the IAF had signed a contract for 83 LCA Mark 1A aircraft, which will be supplemented with an additional 97 units, bringing the total to 180 LCA Mark 1As. This move marks a crucial step towards retiring the aging MiG-21 squadrons from active service. The Air Chief Marshal confirmed that the MiG-21 fighter aircraft would cease operations by 2025, with the LCA Mark 1A being the replacement of choice.
The IAF’s plan involves a phased approach to replace the MiG-21 squadrons with the LCA Mark 1A. According to Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari, the process has already begun, with the second squadron set to be decommissioned shortly, and the third one expected to follow next year. The induction of the LCA Mark 1A will serve as a vital bridge to fill the operational gap left by the outgoing MiG-21s.
The Legacy of MiG-21
The MiG-21 has been a stalwart of the Indian Air Force for over six decades. During the press conference, it was announced that the legendary MiG-21 would participate in what might be its final flypast anywhere in the world. The aircraft has played a pivotal role in safeguarding India’s airspace and has been instrumental in various missions and operations.
Safety Concerns and Modernization
While the MiG-21 has had a long and illustrious service history, it has also faced safety concerns, with several accidents occurring in recent years. The decision to retire the MiG-21s and replace them with the LCA Mark 1A is not only a move towards modernization but also a step towards enhancing the safety of the IAF’s fleet.
Celebrating the 91st Anniversary of the IAF
The Indian Air Force is set to celebrate its 91st anniversary on October 8th, with the theme “IAF – Airpower Beyond Boundaries.” This year’s air display will be held in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, where the IAF will showcase the diversity of its air assets. The event will feature over 120 aircraft of various types, from heritage planes like the Tigermoth and Harvard to newly inducted aircraft like the C-295. Furthermore, the IAF plans to engage over 20,000 school children in witnessing the air display, promoting an outreach to young minds and inspiring future aviators.