Flying coffins place a wake-up call

Even old war horses need to retire

The Indian Air Force’s MiG-21s have been in the news for crashing so often during training sorties that the media has dubbed them ‘flying coffins’

It appears that Indian MiG-21s delivered a few surprises when it beat American F-15Cs in some air combat roles. General Hal Hornburg of the US Air Force termed the performance of the Indian MiG-21s during the recent joint exercise as a ‘wake-up call’ for the United States (via Kautilya).

The American general’s pronouncement could have its own motivations, but it still seems to back Air Chief Marshal Krishnaswamy’s spirited defence of the MiG-21 last year. Does it mean India can sit back and smile? Obviously not.

Every single crash is one crash too many. If the MiG’s have outperformed the F-15s in certain areas it is really due to the ingenuity of the IAF’s pilots. But the lives of these very pilots are placed at a risk due to the MiG’s poor safety record. In any case, the demands on the air force are much more challenging now – in the medium term, the IAF needs to be in a strong position to pull off a smaller version of Operation Desert Storm. MiG-21s were first inducted into the air force in the mid-1960s, and ignoring technological obsolescence over half-a-century does not make good defence planning.

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