MiG-21s being phased out, says Antony

MiG-21s being phased out, says Antony

"The MiG-21 is a very old aircraft. It is now in the process of being phased out," Antony said during question hour in the Lok Sabha.

"The normal life of an aircraft is 30-34 years," he added.
The IAF currently operates a little over 200 MiG-21s. Of these, 121 have been upgraded to the Bison version and are likely to fly till 2017, an IAF source said.
The remaining 80-90 aircraft will be phased out in the next two-three years, the source added, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media on the issue.

The IAF first acquired the MiG-21 in 1961.
Between 1966 and 1984, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) built four variants of the aircraft, initially from completely knocked down kits and eventually from Indian-made components for a total of 658 planes.

In the mid-1990s, despite a series of crashes, the IAF decided to upgrade 121 planes of the fourth variant, the MiG-21bis, to the Bison category.
The complete phase out of the MiG-21 was also linked to the acquisition of new aircraft, the IAF source pointed out.

Towards this end, the IAF will induct two squadrons - 16 aircraft each - of the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) and another six squadrons of the plane within six years.
Then, the IAF will, by the end of April, complete its evaluation of the six jets contending for its order of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) in a deal worth $10 billion.
"If all goes well, we should be able to zero in on the winner within 18 months, with the first aircraft arriving about a year after that," the IAF source said.

Around the time production of the MiG-21 seized, the IAF had felt the need for a suitable replacement and made known its requirements for a LCA to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The first LCA prototype flew in 2000 but there are still major glitches with its engine which are in the process of being ironed out.
Even so, the IAF is known to be not entirely happy with the aircraft, which is why is had ordered a mere six squadrons.
The delays in the LCA project prompted the IAF to embark on the MMRCA programme.