India Set to Ground Aging Soviet-Origin Aircraft Fleet, Reports Suggest

CC0 / / Indian Air Force MiG-21. (File)
Indian Air Force MiG-21. (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.07.2022
The MiG-21 fighter jets were first inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 1963, with several upgraded versions being introduced into service until the 1990s. The aircraft formed the backbone of the IAF for several decades before the arrival of Mirage planes from France in 1981 and Sukhoi Su-30s from Russia in 2002.
The Indian Air Force, or the IAF, is set to phase out the four remaining squadrons of the Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter aircraft by 2025, beginning September this year, media outlets The Indian Express and NDTV reported.

The news of the grounding of the MiG-21 fleet comes at a time when two pilots were killed in a crash in Rajasthan on Thursday, leading to a series of questions on why the vintage jets are still in operation in the country's armed forces.
But reports in the Indian press suggest that the phasing out of these planes was in sync with the modernization plans of the IAF and has no relation to the recent crash in Rajasthan.

After Thursday's incident in the Barmer district of the western state of Rajasthan, BJP Member of Parliament (MP) Varun Gandhi raised the question of when the IAF was planning to remove them from service.

"The whole country is shocked and saddened by the incident in Barmer yesterday. For a few years now, the MiG-21 has been involved in frequent accidents. The aircraft alone has claimed the lives of about 200 pilots," the translation of a tweet from Gandhi in Hindi read. "When will this 'flying coffin' be removed from our fleet? Parliament of the country has to think, will we allow our children to fly this plane?" the lawmaker from Uttar Pradesh's Pilibhit district asked.

The Srinagar-based squadron, code-named 51, will be the first to retire among the four MiG-21 squadrons, followed by the other three in a phased manner, with at least one of them leaving service every year until 2025.

Besides phasing out its MiG-21 fleet, the IAF plans to retire 100 Jaguar aircraft, 50 Mirage fighter jets, and about 60 MiG-29 planes from service by 2028.

Earlier this month, France delivered the last of the 36 Rafale jets to India, which the South Asian country ordered in a government-to-government deal in 2016.

To plug the vast gap in its fleet, the IAF has ordered over 83 Tejas planes, home-grown light combat aircraft developed by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
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