The curtains fall on the MiG-21 FL
The IAF retires the fighter that brought it glory in the 1971 war

Back to the Pavilion - The MiG-21 FL was the hero of the 1971 air war

The Indian Air Force (IAF) finally retired the last of its MiG-21 FL (Type 77) fighter aircraft last month. The FL made its final flight at Kalaikunda Air Force Base, where approximately 15 aircraft were still being flown by the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU). The Type 74 was the second MiG-21 variant to be inducted into the IAF, the first batch of six MiG 21 F-13s (Type 74) being inducted into IAF service in 1963. The MiG-21 was the first supersonic (and bi-sonic) fighter aircraft to enter IAF service and was also its first combat aircraft that was of non-Western origin.

Present on the occasion was Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, Chief of the Air Staff who said that the event “marks a watershed moment in IAF’s history as we reach the end of nearly five decades of remarkable operational service rendered by this iconic fighter.” The MiG 21 FLs will be replaced by Hawk Mk 132 Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT) at Kalaikunda. In spite of being more than three decades old, the Type 77 was clocking an average of approximately 9,000 flying hours per year. According to the IAF, around 80 per cent of the presently serving fighter aircrew in the IAF have flown the Type 77 and 90 per cent have flown one of the MiG variants at some time or the other in their flying career. In the Eighties and Nineties, MiG-21s constituted nearly 60 per cent of the IAF’s combat fleet strength.

The MiG-21 FLs were first inducted into service between 1966 and 1974. Later, 38 aircraft were procured as Flyaways followed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) license producing 197 more. No 28 Squadron ‘First Supersonics’ had the distinction of being the first squadron to be formed on the type. This was quickly followed by No.1, 4, 8, 29, 30, 45 and 47 squadrons. These eight squadrons notched up a tally of four Pakistani F-104s, two Shenyang F-6s, one F-86 Sabre and a Lockheed C-130 Hercules by the end of the 1971 war.

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