What has happened?
- Two pilots have been killed when a MiG-21 fighter aircraft crashed in Rajasthan’s Barmer district on Thursday evening.
- The debris of the aircraft was found scattered on a half-kilometer stretch in Bhimda village in Barmer.
- Two fire brigades of Cairn Vedanta reached the spot of the accident but they struggled to control the fire.
- The MiG-21 aircraft was involved in a sortie over the Baytu region when the crash happened.
- The exact reason for the crash is not known yet.
- The Indian Air Force has ordered a court of inquiry to ascertain the cause of the accident.
- MiG-21, which is a single-engine multirole fighter or ground attack aircraft of Soviet era, Was upgraded in 2006 with features including better avionics, powerful multi-mode radars, and the capability of transporting a wide range of guided munitions.
- The ‘Bison’ is an upgraded version of MiG-21.
- Once operated in a huge numbers as the backbone of the Indian Air Force, four squadrons of the type remain.
- Upgrades and upkeep have kept the jets not just fit for flight, but effective in combat too.
- It was a MiG-21 Bison that went head to head with inbound Pakistan Air Force jets in the post-Balakot air skirmish over the Line of Control.
- This is not the first time the Soviet-origin plane has crashed.
- Since 1963, 872 MiG-21s have been inducted by the IAF.
- In the past 51 years, over 400 MiG-21s have crashed and killed more than 200 pilots and almost 50 civilians on the ground.
- Spate of crashes, many of them fatal, has amplified the urge to see the backs of these ageing jets as quickly as possible.
- The IAF has consistently held that there is never a single compromise on keeping aircraft flightworthy, no matter how old they are.
When the Bison will be replaced?
- The Indian Air Force will soon have its first full squadron of indigenous Tejas jets.
- With the IAF signing up for over 100 more Tejas jets, most of them of an improved variety, the IAF leadership could theoretically be in a position to hasten the retirement of its MiG-21 fighters.
- The challenges of squadron strength and depleting numbers, however, make any drastic moves unlikely and difficult.
- The IAF’s 12 squadrons of Sukhoi-30 MKI have gradually replaced the MiG-21 BIS.
- The Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft is superior to the MiG-21 in all aspects – weapon payload, fuel storage capacity and mission capabilities.
- The Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft can carry a 8.5-ton weapon payload, while the MiG-21 BIS carries only two tons of armament.
- Therefore, in terms of firepower or weapon payload alone, a Sukhoi-30 MKI is as good as four MiG-21 BIS aircraft.
Squadrons with IAF
- The IAF has 33 fighter aircraft squadrons.
- Each squadron has 16 aircraft plus two trainer aircraft, which are two-seaters.
- This amounts to over 500 fighter aircraft.
- The IAF’s sanctioned strength is a force level of 42 fighter squadrons to fight a two-front war, with Pakistan and China simultaneously.
Why 42 squadrons?
- The industry icon and Indian aviation pioneer JRD Tata, who held the honorary two-star general IAF rank of Air Vice Marshal, headed a committee in the early 1960s to study the requirements for a fighter aircraft fleet.
- Its recommendations made the government authorise a force level of 42 fighter squadrons to counter threats from erstwhile West Pakistan, East Pakistan and China.
- At that time, the IAF flew World War II vintage US-built Liberator bombers, among others, and the MiG-21, the workhorse of the fighter fleet, was yet to join service.
- Subsequently, the mainstay of the IAF’s 42 squadron strength was the Soviet-era MiG-21 aircraft and its variants with different weapon payloads or armament carrying capacities.
- These aircraft were used for air defence as well as strike and air-to-ground missions.
- Now, almost all of them have been retired from IAF squadron service, except three modified MiG-21 BIS (Bison) squadrons.
- These aircraft, too, will exit the IAF over the next few years.
Q) What is the name of the Biggest Airborne Exercise conducted by the Indian Army till now?
- Him Vijay
- Dhruv Sakthi
- Winged Raider
- Yudh Abhiyas