MiG-23’s final flight | india | Hindustan Times
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MiG-23’s final flight

The MiG-23, the iconic supersonic, swing-wing ground attack jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will fly its last sortie from the Halwara air base on the Ludhiana-Raikot highway, on Friday.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2009 00:18 IST
Amit Sharma

The MiG-23, the iconic supersonic, swing-wing ground attack jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will fly its last sortie from the Halwara air base on the Ludhiana-Raikot highway, on Friday.

In “swing wing” aircraft, the wings swing backward on hinges after takeoff to reduce drag and improve aero-dynamism.
Following a flying display and touchdown in the presence of Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major, the plane will be “grounded” forever.

Air Vice Marshal P.P.S. Kahlon (retd), the first pilot to fly the plane when it was inducted into the IAF’s 10th squadron in Jodhpur in 1980, said he was as “thrilled” to bid adieu to the aircraft as he was when he got the honour of flying it for first time. “Today, I feel an excitement similar to what I had felt when it was introduced and I had the honour of being its first technical officer. There is also a deep sense of nostalgia,” Kahlon told Hindustan Times.

Introduced as a tactical air strike aircraft to counter Pakistan’s air superiority F-16 fighters, the Russian-origin MiG 23 BN was used in Siachen in 1985-86. It has operated from Leh, the highest airfield in India and it is also the first fighter aircraft to operate from high altitude airfield in Thoise in J&K. The plane, which was then envisaged to replace the older MiG 21 fighter jets, also saw action during the 1999 Kargil war and was later used to carry out patrols during Operation Parakram, the 2001-02 stand-off with Pakistan.

The IAF, which, at one time, had 70 such planes, has lost about half its fleet to accidents. In fact, it is its “dubious safety record” — mainly because spares are not easily available — that prompted the Air Force to phase them out.

Interestingly, civilians around the Halwara air base, too, are as eager as the IAF personnel to be a part of phasing out ceremony. Residents of nearby villages have sought permission from the IAF authorities to be allowed inside the air base to witness MiG 23’s farewell ceremony.

“It is a historic moment. We have seen these planes flying over our villages for nearly 30 years. Unfortunately, we have also seen several of them crash into our fields. We want to see the fighter jets ‘live’ before they are sent off to war museums,” said Bikramjit Singh Sangha , a resident of Mullanpur village near Halwara.