Amid the recent crash of MiG-21 in Barmer district of Rajasthan that killed both pilots Flight Lieutenant A Bal and Wing Commander Rana. A source from the IAF said that the airforce is planning to retire a squadron on 30th September.
The IAF is keen on hanging the boots for these Soviet-era jets as many of them are over 40 years old and have a nasty record of 400 crashes that have killed over 200 pilots in the past 60 years of their service.
In the last 20 months, 6 MiG-21’s have crashed killing 5 pilots.
IAF to retire MiG-21 squadron
This IAF aircraft has earned the nicknames “flying coffin” and “widow maker” for its high crash rates.
A squadron is a group of 12-18 aircraft.
On the 30th of September, the 51st Squadron, nicknamed “The Strong Arms” is said to be retired.
“The number-plated squadron would be reactivated soon with a more capable aircraft in the near future”, the officials said
The squadron is based out of Srinagar Airforce Station. This is the same squadron that thwarted Pakistan’s Operation Swift Retort which was a retaliation to the IAF’s Balakot Airstrike.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Vartaman (Now Group Captain) was flying a MiG-21 of the same squadron that shot down a Pakistani F-16 Falcon, thus earning the squadron another nickname “Falcon Slayers” and “AAMRAM Dodgers”.
This was the only case in which a MiG-21 shot down an F-16 in actual air-to-air combat.
The IAF was set to phase out these jets a long time back. And replace them with the indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. Due to delays in the induction of these new jets. The IAF is compelled to continue to fly the Soviet-era fighter.
An official from the IAF stated, “The IAF carries out extensive checks on these planes before flying and all safety aspects are taken care of before the pilot takes off.”