IAF flying 44-yr-old MiG-21, says Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa
The Indian Air force (IAF) is still flying 44-year-old MiG-21 fighter jets when no one even drives cars that old, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said on Tuesday.
The Russian-made MiG-21 joined the IAF in 1973-74.
“We are still flying MiG-21 which is 44 years old but nobody driving cars of that vintage,” Air Chief Dhanoa said at a seminar on “Modernisation and Indigenisation and plans of the Indian Air Force”, in New Delhi.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh was also present. The Air Chief also said that MI-21M (type-96) would be phased out this year. “Hopefully, I will fly the last sortie in September, subject to visibility,” he said.
Often dubbed “flying coffins”, at least 170 MiGs have been lost in accidents over the past decade.
In addition to the MiG-21M, another MiG-27 fighter squadron — each squadron comprises 16-18 fighters — will be phased out. With this, the IAF will be down to around 30 fighter squadrons.
Dwelling on the use indigenously-made products for the IAF, Air Chief Dhanoa said, “What ails our indigenous drive is the quality control in manufacturing, which has shown an improvement over the years but we have miles to go. As aircraft have a very low tolerance to failures, we often lose the platform if it seriously malfunctions in the air.”
He also mentioned in contrast, the indigenously made Light Combat Aircraft – Tejas — hasn’t seen a single crash. “It goes to the credit of ADA [Aeronautical Development Agency] and NFTC [National Flight Test Centre] that we have not lost a single LCA in flight testing since its maiden flight on 04 January 2001,” the Air Chief said.
Addressing the seminar, defence minister Rajnath Singh said, the IAF, besides the army and navy needed to keep pace with the “advancements in technology” to enhance operational capabilities. The government is making efforts to encourage the private sector in the defence sector.
The minister said that the private sector could now use government “test facilities”, for instance, airfields and firing ranges, to meet “quality standards”. He said the decision would facilitate the Indian private sector.
Singh also underlined that the government had tweaked the rules to facilitate more foreign direct investment in the defence manufacturing. The minister said that “up to 49%” of foreign investment in Indian defence manufacturing” is being allowed through the automatic route whereas “up to 100 per cent” investment was being allowed “on a case-to-case basis”. He urged foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to establish manufacturing facilities in India.