New Delhi: A pilot of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been killed in an air crash involving a MiG-21 (Bison) aircraft this morning. The crash occurred 10 Kms short of the Awantipur Airbase in South Kashmir around 1048 hours today.
The pilot had taken-off from the Srinagar base and was on a routine training sortie. The IAF said “a Court of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate into the cause of the accident”.
The MIG 21’s should have been phased out as per their normal life of 30-32 years, the IAF remains the sole force in the world flying this early 1960’s Soviet Union era relic.
In the mid-1990s, despite a series of crashes, the IAF decided to upgrade 121 planes of the fourth variant, the MiG-21bis, to the Bison category. These are likely to fly till 2017.
The complete phase out of the MiG-21 was also linked to the acquisition of new aircraft, the IAF source pointed out. Two squadrons (some 40 planes) of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the Tejas, that is scheduled to replace the MiG 21, are awaiting final operational clearance. Its weapons and systems are being integrated.
The 126 Medium Multirole Aircraft (MMRCA) that were to be purchased from the French plane maker Dassault Aviation, are still not finalised despite the company’s twin-engined bird, the Rafale, having been finalised in 2012.
Acute shortage in fighter aircraft fleet has forced the Air Force to keep flying the old MIG-21 fighters.