In the modern warfare system, the synergy of machine and man has provided strong defence insurance to the sovereignty of a country. Machines ensure the frequency and accuracy of targets and men provide operational capacities. The effectiveness of the two helps in maintaining the defence capabilities. Any imbalances in the quality of machines and men harm the overall security architecture of the country.
Another accident of aged MiG 21
In a series of unfortunate accidents, the aged MiG 21 has once again failed its masters and has taken the lives of two young pilots. Informing about the accident, the Indian Air Force (IAF) said, “At 9:10 pm this evening, an IAF MiG 21 trainer aircraft met with an accident in the western sector during a training sortie. Both pilots sustained fatal injuries.”
“IAF deeply regrets the loss of lives and stands firmly with the bereaved families. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident”, the IAF added while grieving the loss of the two brave pilots.
IAF deeply regrets the loss of lives and stands firmly with the bereaved families.
A Court of Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) July 28, 2022
The Defence Minister too was grieving about the accident. He took to twitter and said, “Deeply anguished by the loss of two Air Warriors due to an accident of IAF’s Mig-21 trainer aircraft near Barmer in Rajasthan. Their service to the nation will never be forgotten. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of sadness.”
Deeply anguished by the loss of two Air Warriors due to an accident of IAF’s Mig-21 trainer aircraft near Barmer in Rajasthan. Their service to the nation will never be forgotten. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of sadness. https://t.co/avKi9YoMdo
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) July 28, 2022
The two young Indian Air Force pilots that suffered fatal injuries are Wing Commander M Rana from Mandi Himachal Pradesh and Flight Lieutenant Advitiya Bal from Jammu.
Salute the sacrifice of two Indian Air Force pilots in the crash of MiG21 trainer aircraft last night in Barmer, Rajasthan. Wing Commander M. Rana from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh and Flight Lt. Advitiya Bal from Jammu. Terrible loss for the nation. 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/MCcGG7jPvn
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) July 29, 2022
MiG 21: From IAF’s first supersonic jet to the Flying Coffin
Indian Air Forces procured MiG-21 from Russia (then USSR) in 1961. With the transfer of technology, the MiG-21 became the first supersonic fighter jet of the IAF. Over the years, about 840 MiG – 21 and its other variants were locally assembled and inducted into the arsenals of IAF.
The MiG-21 bison was in limelight in 2019, when Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down an F-16 jet of Pakistan a day after the Balakot air strikes. Despite being obsolete, successive governments have allowed operations of this supersonic jet with some retrofitting.
Due to the large numbers of procurement, MiGs also formed the largest fighter jets squadrons of IAF. The slow rate of induction of new fighter jets and the crunch of squadron strength have delayed the decommissioning period of MiG 21. In this scenario, about 70 MiG-21 and 50 MiG-29 variants are still operational in the Indian Air Force.
Reports suggest that in the last 60 years of operations, about 400 MiG-21 aircraft have crashed claiming the lives of about 200 brave-heart pilots of IAF and 60 additional civilian lives. For the frequent accident and endangering lives of the pilots, the MiG-21 fighter jets are dubbed as ‘the flying coffin’ and ‘window-maker’.
IAF to phase out MiG-21 by 2025
After the accident, ANI quoting from the IAF sources reported that “the 51 Squadron based out of Srinagar air base is being number plated on 30 September. After this, only three squadrons of the planes would be left in service and would be phased out by the year 2025.”
It is pertinent to understand that the security doctrine of the country mandates for the 42 squadrons of fighter jets of IAF to always be available for a two-front war. Currently struggling with the 32 squadrons, IAF is in a mass crunch of fighter jets.
Fighting both with numbers and qualities, IAF is urgently looking to complete its required squadron strength. Having already acquired 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition, the government is ready to buy another 114 multi-role fighter aircraft under the ‘Buy Global & Make in India’ program for the Indian Air Force. Further, the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas are also in the line of procurement.
However, to replace the three complete squadrons of MiG-21, the Indian government has to acquire fighter jets on an urgent basis. Endangering a young pilot’s life cannot be justified in any terms. A machine can be procured with purchasing capabilities, but a pilot who is trained for war can never be replaced. His fighting capabilities, sense of war, and operational capacities cannot be equated with any machines. Consequently, the government should push to retire the obsolete MiG squadrons on an urgent basis.
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