The Indian Air Force (IAF) has retired another squadron of its ageing Mig-21 fighter jet from its fleet.
The latest squadron retired was the No.4 Squadron 'Oorials' based at Utterlai air base at Barmer in Rajasthan. The No. 4 Squadron had been operating MiG-21s since 1966 and according to Hindustan Times is now in the process of transitioning to the Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft.
This follows the retirement of Bisons from the Srinagar-based No. 51 Squadron about a year ago.
With the retirement of this No.4 Squadron, only two more squadrons, based at Suratgarh and Bikaner, remain in the IAF service. They are set to be retired by 2025.
"Marking an end of an era, the MiG-21 Bison aircraft were seen for the last time in the skies of Uttarlai in Barmer district of Rajsthan. The MiG-21 Bison flew along side the Su-30 MKI to mark the occasion," Gandhinagar based South Western Air Command posted on X.
The IAF received its first single-engine MiG-21 in 1963 and went on to induct a total of 874 of these Soviet-origin supersonic fighters to bolster its combat capabilities.
Over the past six decades, more than 400 MiG-21s have been involved in accidents, leading to the loss of approximately 200 pilots' lives, giving them the moniker 'flying coffins' in the mainstream media.
The MiG-21's high accident rate was largely due to the aircraft's extended service life, as it formed the majority of the IAF's fighter fleet for an extended period, while the induction of new aircraft was delayed.
The upcoming light combat aircraft (LCA) Mk-1As, which will replace the MiG-21s, are set to be inducted by the IAF starting next year.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has the capacity to produce 16 LCA Mk-1As annually in Bengaluru, and a new production line in Nashik will boost production to a total of 24 jets. The first Mk-1A is scheduled for delivery to the IAF in February 2024, with all 83 aircraft from the order expected to be inducted by 2027-28.
In early October, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari announced plans to procure an additional 97 LCA Mk-1As.
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