The Indian Air Force is set to retire one of its four remaining squadrons of the ageing Mig-21 fighter jets on September 30.

The IAF will retire the Srinagar-based No. 51 squadron, also known as ‘Sword Arms’, an official familiar with the matter told Hindustan Times on Monday.

Wing Commander (now Group Captain) Abhinandan Varthaman, who was awarded Vir Chakra for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 combat aircraft over the Line of Control on February 2019, was part of the squadron at the time. The squadron was also part of ‘Operation Safed Sagar’ during the Kargil conflict in 1999.

It was earlier reported that the IAF plans to retire all the four MiG-21 squadrons by 2025. The MiG-21 is a Soviet-era single-engine multirole fighter and ground attack aircraft and once formed the backbone of the IAF fleet. Currently, the IAF has around 70 MiG-21 aircraft and 50 MiG-29 variants.

In the past few years, several MiG-21s have crashed drawing attention towards safety record and the ageing fleet.

According to reports, over 400 MiG-21s have been involved in accidents since its deployment in in 1963, killing around 200 pilots.

Earlier in June, two Indian Air Force pilots were killed in crash of a MiG-21 trainer aircraft in Rajasthan’s Barmer.

The IAF is in the process to induct different variants of Tejas light combat aircraft and Su-30 to replace the MiG-21.