There are no dissent in the top brass of the Indian Air Force and defence establishment that the MiG-21s have become obsolete. But nonetheless, the IAF is compelled to fly these vintage war machines owing to its low squadron strength.
The IAF has openly praised these machines – which no doubt were a delight for the aviators during its hey days, but behind the doors they do accept that they are needed to be replaced immediately.
Statistics tabled in the Parliament-
“A total of 872 MiG aircraft of various types were purchased from 1966-1980. The MiG series aircraft were inducted starting from MiG-21 in 1960s/1970s to MiG-29 in 1980s. These aircraft were purchased as per rules/procedures of that period. At present the procurement of capital equipment is carried out as per Defence Procurement Procedure.
The training of initial batches of pilots for MiG series aircraft was carried out in erstwhile USSR, followed by training for the rest of the pilots in India. The procurement cases involving Russian origin MiG-21 Bis & MiG-27 aircraft involved Transfer of Technology (ToT) and license production by HAL.
482 MiG aircraft accidents took place since Financial Year (FY) 1971-72 to FY 2012-13 (till 19th April 2012).
A total of 171 pilots, 39 civilians, 8 service personnel and 1 aircrew lost their lives in these accidents. The causes of accidents were both human error and technical defects.”