Yesterday, Pakistan had intruded India’s airspace in a move that quickly escalated tensions between India and Pakistan. Pakistan had reportedly used F-16 fighter jets while violating India’s airspace; India’s combat patrol team included the Soviet era MiG 21 fighters. These fighter jets are nearing retirement and one might have argued that the MiG 21 stood no chance in a dogfight with the F-16. However, in what can only be described as another feather in the cap for the IAF, MiG 21 not only tackled the Pakistani F-16 Falcons but also shot down one of them.
MiG 21 is on the verge of retirement and the IAF has been forced to drag it along due to inordinate delays in the Tejas’s development. F-16, on the other hand, is seen as one of the most popular aircrafts currently in the modern military service. The F-16 was developed keeping in mind the first-hand war experience and therefore, it is built considering combat requirements. F-16 is a battle tested fighter jet. The US made F-16 multi-role fighter aircraft first saw action during the 1991 Gulf War. It was used to a large extent during the Gulf War. After that it has been a regular part of the US and NATO campaigns.
The MiG-21 is an iconic fighter. It was the first mass produced supersonic fighter jet. But now it is considered near obsolete. Last year, it was reported that as per Air Vice Marshall SJ Nanodkar, IAF is compelled to carry on with MiG 21 in absence of any viable option. It has been used by more than 60 countries but is quickly becoming unusable in today’s time.
We do have a real example of the practical difference in both the jets as well. It happened in 1982, when Israeli F-15s and F-16As had engaged in a massive three-day air battle over the Bekka valley against the Syrian fighter jets. Israel had shot down fourty-four Syrian MiG-21s and MiG-23s without suffering any loss. This shows that the F-16 is far superior when compared to MiG-21. Till date, it would have been difficult to imagine a MiG-21 giving a fight to F-16, leave alone the question of downing F-16. According to Abhijit-Iyer Mitra, “It’s like a 1960 Beatle taking down a 2000 model Ferrari.” The Pakistani F-16 has clear and massive superiority over India’s MiG-21.
The fact that IAF was able to beat back the Pakistani F-16 using MiG 21 is a tribute to the extraordinary skills of the Indian pilots and how Pakistan is chest thumping even after losing one of the most one-sided dogfights till date.