On its last legs, the MiG-21 continues to bare its fangs. The most advanced aircraft that the Pakistan Air Force flaunts went down to the oldest fighter in IAF inventory, the venerable MiG-21, in an aerial duel in the skies of Jammu and Kashmir today

The MiG-21’s ‘Bison’ version, two of which were scrambled from an operational readiness platform to intercept four Pakistani aircraft that intruded into Indian airspace in Rajouri sector shot one of the F-16s.

The IAF also lost a MiG-21 in the duel, the pilot of which ejected but landed in Pakistan-held territory, where he was taken into custody. While there is no official word as to how the MiG-21 went down, various theories are doing the rounds in defence circles as to why the pilot may have crossed the Line of Control while engaging the hostile aircraft.

Scheduled to finally retire in phases over the next five years, the Soviet-origin MiG-21 has been in Indian service since 1963. The IAF bought a total of 847 MiG-21s of different version, many of which were produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The Bison is the upgraded version of the earlier ‘Biz’, then the latest and final version to be produced by the Soviet Union. Bisons were upgraded by Russia with modern avionics and missiles, making it a potent weapons platform.

The nimble single-seat fighter has served in the forces of about 60 countries and has been one of the most widely produced post-World War II aircraft in the world. In the Indian sub-continent, it first saw combat in 1965 against US-made F-104 Starfighters. Though its role in this war was limited, the 1971 Bangladesh campaign was its finest hour. It was also used during the Kargil conflict. 

At present, the IAF has about 120 Bisons still in service, with all the other versions having been retired. 

2nd Fighter Jet Shot Down Since 1971

  • This is the second time since the 1971 war that the IAF has shot down an intruding Pakistani aircraft, the last time being in August 1999, a few weeks after the Kargil conflict

  • An Atlantique maritime patrol aircraft was downed over the Rann of Kutch. That time it was also a MiG-21 behind the kill