NEW DELHI ($1=81.64 Indian Rupees) — India has four squadrons of Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 supersonic jet fighters. The four MiG-21 squadrons of the Indian Air Force are called Bison. New Delhi has already decided that the four MiG-21 Bison squadrons will be equipped with MiG-29s, thereby consigning the famous MiG-21s to history.
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MiG-21 has real combat and proud history in India. The most recent memory is in 2019 when Pakistani fighter jets entered Indian airspace. The day before, the Indian Air Force attempted airstrikes in Balakot, Pakistan. Then, a Pakistani F-16 engages in a dogfight with an Indian MiG-21 piloted by hero pilot Group Captain Abhinandan Varthamanam. Despite being shot down and held captive by the Pakistanis for 60 days, before going down him and his MiG-21 shot down a Pakistani F-16.
Varthamanam is part of the MiG-21 squadron ’51 Swordarms’ in Shringar, India. The remaining three MiG-21 squadrons are based at Uttarlai, Suratgarh, and Nal in Rajasthan. New Delhi plans to phase out the MiG-21. The plan is to retire this fighter by the end of 2025.
The MiG-21 is the first supersonic fighter of the Indian Air Force. Despite some good technical characteristics, combat aircraft remain difficult and expensive to maintain. Last but not least, since it entered into service in 1963 till today, the Indian Air Force has suffered many accidents while piloting the MiG-21.
Apart from the maintenance costs, the MiG-21 can no longer defend the Indian skies with dignity because of the advanced technology. This fighter does not have modern systems with built-in safety mechanisms, new radars, an electronic warfare system, the inability to upgrade the engine, and the inability to integrate modern air-to-air, air-to-ground missiles or the future of Indian defense – the BrahMos missile.
India is gradually retooling its air combat equipment. 33 air force squadrons are defending the Indian territory. Some of them have 16 units in their inventory, others up to 42. Apart from the MiG-29, India has the Su-30MKI as well as the French Dassault Rafale. Last but not least India has its Tejas fighter jet.
By the end of 2029, India should receive at least 73 more Tejas MK-1A fighters. Indian sources claim that they will be deeply modernized and upgraded to meet the new technical requirements for invulnerability and efficiency.
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