In view of a large number of crashes involving the MiG-21s, the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Thursday said it has decided that after December 2012 only experienced pilots will fly the fighter jet aircraft.
IAF air chief marshal (ACM) N A K Browne on Thursday said those undergoing training in the ongoing course for trainee pilots would be the last batch of young pilots flying the MiG-21s.
"Their (trainee pilots) course finishes in December next year and thereafter only experienced pilots would be flying the MiG-21s," he told reporters.
The IAF chief was replying to a query on the steps taken by the force to reduce the number of accidents in wake of two recent crashes in which two IAF pilots were killed.
Browne added that the decision was taken due to the lack of availability of the aircraft and it would have happened a little earlier in case of an early delivery of Hawk Advance Jet Trainers (AJT).
"We have to do this because there is no other aircraft available. If the Hawk had come two years before as planned, the MiG-21s would have been kept for experienced pilots only," he said.
Observing that the training of young pilots is an area of concern for the force, ACM Browne said he hoped that the new basic trainers would be inducted into the IAF by 2013.
"Training is a big concern for us. At the moment we don't have a basic trainer aircraft and the case is with the government. We hope to get it cleared so that at least we can sign the contract by October, and we get the new trainers by 2013 when we start the new (flying training) course," he said.
The IAF had inducted over 900 MiG-21s in its fleet over a period of 40 years, half of which were lost in different crashes. The MiG-21s are scheduled to be phased out by 2017.