Creaky MiG-21 bison, weakened air defence

The near-antique MiG-21 bison (not bis! updated correction, sorry folks) still perform frontline service with the Indian Air Force, except the creakiness of these short range air defence combat aircraft is telling. The air frames are beginning to fray. Mindful of this situation, an order has gone out to pilots in the six to seven squadrons in the IAF featuring this aircraft not to pull stressful maneuvers lest these flying machines fall apart in the skies. The MiG-21 bison, it may be recalled, underwent an upgrade. The trouble is the upgrade does not replace the air frame — the same old air frame is retained, only new rivets are inserted, the rust wherever accumulated is removed, and other cosmetic changes made. Thus, we have a nearly fifty year old air frame in employ in its various versions, including — it is hard to believe — according to one source the FL version. Pending induction of the Tejas LCA, MiG-21 bison is the bulk air defence aircraft. If the bis isn’t able anymore to fight in a meaningful way it is disadvantaged against newer planes the adversary can muster — and here I am not talking about the Fizaya (Pakistan Air Force) which is in far more difficult straits, but the PLAAF elements China can readily mobilize in the Chengdu MR. Unless the Tejas program is fast-forwarded, India will be in trouble.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Defence Industry, DRDO, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Military Acquisitions, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Russia, russian assistance, South Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Creaky MiG-21 bison, weakened air defence

  1. Shaurya says:

    The only problem seems to be the IAF is banking more on the MMRCA than the Tejas. Someone has to tell our boys that they shall not always get their shiny foreign toys.

  2. Shaurya says:

    I have a question. From the looks of the in progress plan and future plans, the IAF will move from mostly light and some medium aircrafts to mostly heavy to medium air crafts. Assuming we eventually procure some 120-200 Tejas for air defense roles (which IMO are alone sufficient for TSP) what would be the dominant mission profiles for the other aircrafts (Su-30, Rafale, FGFA and if we ever see it the AMCA). These capabilities would have to fit some doctrine of security interests. I am not saying there are none, but would not mind reading some specific works, which documents the matching of these interests with capabilities. Thanks.

  3. Garg says:

    The Mig-21 is a great example of neglecting domestic aviation industry. The plane must have been retired a decade back.

    Complex weapons like fighters need an entire ecosystem of design labs and quality manufacturing facilities which will come into existence only when sufficient orders are available for domestic industry. This magic number of a sustainable ecosystem is around 80-100 fighters per year. Unless this kind of number is targeted, the domestic industry will not succeed. Also, only private industry like Tatas, Mahindras etc. will succeed in fighter production because of their huge experience of running manufacturing plants efficiently and financial strength.

    India needs min of 60 fighter squadrons (optimum number is 100 including attack and CAS planes). 40-42 squadrons is too low a number. The country has a very long border and generally hostile neighbours. Today’s wars place heavy reliance on airpower.

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