The Indian Air Force is set to retire its Srinagar-based MiG-21 squadron ‘Sword Arms’ that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. MiG-21 squadron ‘Sword Arms’ was a part of when he had downed an F-16 combat aircraft of Pakistan a day after the Balakot strike in February 2019. ‘Sword Arms’ is one of its four remaining squadrons of ageing MiG-21 fighter jets.
- The No. 51 Squadron is to be retired by the end of September, “as per the plan”.
- The remaining three squadrons of MiG-21 will be phased out by 2025.
- IAF is inducting different variants of the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft to replace the MiG-21s.
- The air force got its first single-engine MiG-21 in 1963, and it went on to induct 874 variants of the Soviet-origin supersonic fighters to bolster its combat potential.
Why was this decision taken?
- Several MiG-21s have crashed in recent years, with the accidents turning the spotlight on India’s longest-serving fighter plane, its safety record and IAF’s plans to replace the ageing jets with newer models in the coming years.
- Over 400 MiG-21s have been involved in accidents over the past six decades, killing around 200 pilots. More MiG-21s have crashed than any other fighter jets because they formed the bulk of the combat aircraft in the IAF’s inventory for a long time.
- The air force had to keep its MiG-21 fleet flying longer than it would have liked because of delays in the induction of new aircraft, as previously reported.
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