New Delhi, Dec 7: The MiG-21 FL fighter, a variant of the MiG-21 that heralded the supersonic era in Indian Air Force (IAF) and dealt telling blows to Pakistan during the 1971 war, will Wednesday fly into the annals of military aviation history.
“The deafening roar of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 FL afterburner, an iconic delta-wing fighter aircraft that heralded the supersonic era in IAF will no longer be heard after December 11, 2013, the day it is set to fly into the annals of military aviation history,” an IAF release said.
Four MiG-21 FL aircraft flown by pilots from the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) in the northeast will fly a box formation and IAF chief N. A. K Browne will take salute at the ceremonial parade to bid them adieu.
“Formations of MiG-27 ML and Sukhoi-30 MKI will also fly past in reverence to the legend of a fighter jet that remains the most widely exploited platform in IAF history,” the release said.
The supersonic aircraft also saw action in the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971.
Being limited in numbers, it played a restricted role in the 1965 war. It, however, played a crucial role in the 1971 war, giving the IAF air superiority over vital areas in the Western theatre.
In the first supersonic air combat over the sub-continent in 1971, a MiG-21 FL claimed a PAF F-104 Starfighter with its twin-barrelled guns alone.
“By the end of the hostilities, the IAF MiG-21s had claimed four Pakistani F-104s, two F-6s, one F-86 Sabre and a Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The pin-point accurate attack on the Governor’s House at Dhaka by IAF pilots flying the MiG-21s proved to be a turning point in the war, forcing the adversary to negotiate an eventual surrender,” the release said.
The MiG-21 was also fielded in the Kargil war. “It was often the first choice of commanders as it provided unmatched flexibility due its unique attributes of high agility, fast acceleration and quick turn-around,” the release said.
It said that the versatility of all the MiG-21 variants have immensely shaped the IAF operational philosophy for decades.
“The pilots, engineers and technicians who flew and maintained the MiG-21 have been strong proponents of its exceptional combat worthiness,” the release said.
It said that apart from accomplishing major operational feats, MiG-21 also ushered a “revolutionary enhancement in the technological and manufacturing capabilities of our indigenous aerospace industry.”
“With the phasing out of the MiG-21 FL, an era of relentless performance, precision deliverance and intimidating performance will also come to an end,” it said.