IssueCourtesy: Uday India| Date : 27 Dec , 2013
Mig-21 FL C-1125 being towed out of the parade square at Kalikunda airbase during the phasing out ceremony held at Kalaikunda
Every one of us wants to fly high above the sky and therefore our fascination towards the sky always remains in our dreams and therefore we keep watching aircraft and feel envy of them. There would hardly be any occasion when we looked at the sky and did not think of a fighter jet, which always formed part of our dreams. Yes, we are talking about MiG-21 FL. But the sad part is that the deafening roar of the MiG-21 FL afterburner, an iconic delta-wing fighter aircraft that heralded the ‘supersonic era’ in Indian Air Force (IAF), will no longer be heard.
From its pivotal role in the 1971 war against Pakistan to Kargil war three decades later, the MiG-21 formed the bedrock for most of the IAF’s operations over the last five decades.
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 FL, which formed the combat backbone of the IAF, took off for its last sortie from the Kalaikunda airbase near Kharagpur in West Bengal on December 11, 2013, with this it stands decommissioned from the Indian Air Force forever, bidding adieu after half a century in the skies. Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, who was present at the fly-past, termed the phase-out of India’s first supersonic aircraft a “watershed moment”. “Today’s event marks a watershed moment in (the) IAF’s history as we reach the end of nearly five decades of remarkable operational service rendered by this iconic fighter,” Browne said at the base from where the MiG-21 FL had taken off for the first time in 1963.
The iconic fighter designed in the erstwhile USSR was inducted in the IAF in 1963. From its pivotal role in the 1971 war against Pakistan to Kargil war three decades later, the MiG-21 formed the bedrock for most of the IAF’s operations over the last five decades. Although the MiG-21 was commissioned in the Indian Air Force in the early 60s, it was in the 1971 war with Pakistan—leading to the formation of Bangladesh—that it provided an edge to the Indian defence. “In that one war alone, it claimed eight fighter planes of Pakistan. It played a pivotal role in the Kargil war, too,” recalled a retired Air Force pilot.
Being limited in numbers, MiG-21s played a restricted role in the 1965 war. They, however, played a crucial role in the 1971 war giving the IAF the air superiority over vital points and areas in the western theatre. Four MiG-21s had entered the enemy territory in the erstwhile East Pakistan, striking with precision the Governor’s house in Dhaka in attacks that turned the war in India’s favour. In the first-ever supersonic air combat that ensued over the subcontinent in 1971, an Indian Mig-21 FL claimed a PAF F-104 Starfighter with its internal twin-barrelled guns alone. By 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.