IAF to phase out oldest variants of MiG-21 by next year

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Hindon (UP), Feb 5 (PTI) In the wake of increasingmishaps involving fighter jets, the Indian Air Force hasdecided to completely phase-out the oldest variants of itsMiG-21 combat jets.

"As the modern aircraft join service, we would bephasing out the oldest variants of the MiG-21 (type 77) bynext year," IAF chief Air Chief marshal P V Naik said at theinduction ceremony of the C-130J Super Hercules here.

He was asked if flying on MiG-21s and otheraccident-prone jets should be stopped to save the lives ofpilots flying old aircraft.

Speaking on the occasion, Defence Minister A K Antonysaid under the modernisation plans of the force, IAF willphase out its older aircraft with new aircraft such as theSu-30 MKIs and the yet to be inducted 126 Medium MultiroleCombat Aircraft (M-MRCA).

The IAF MiG-21 fleet includes Type 96, Type 77 and theBison variants. The Bisons are likely to continue till 2017depending on the induction of the M-MRCAs and the indigenousLight Combat Aircraft ''Tejas''.

Due to their high accident rate, the MiG-21s had earnedthe sobriquet of ''Flying Coffins'' in the early part of thedecade but after certain measures were taken by the IAF, thenumber of mishaps has gone down.

On Friday also, a MiG-21 ''Bison'' fighter aircraft hadcrashed apparently due to an engine problem while on a routinesortie in Madhya Pradesh''s Sheopur district but the pilotejected safely.

A Cheetah helicopter of the Army Aviation Corps crashedin a residential area in Nashik on February 2, killing bothpilots but there was no casualty on the ground.

In 2010, a total of 10 IAF aircraft crashed, includingfour MiG-27 and two MiG-21 planes.

Besides the fighter planes, the IAF also lost threehelicopters last year -- a Mi-17, a Mi-26 and one Chetak. PTIAJD

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