The times of India reports that India has grounded its remaining fleet of Russian-made MiG-21s after another fatal crash that claimed the lives of two pilots on a training mission.
Last week in the Barmer district of Rajasthan, Wing Commander M Rana and Flight Lieutenant Advitiya Bal were killed when their MiG-21 Type 69 trainer crashed during a night training flight. This marks the 6th MiG-21 crash in 18 months, killing six pilots.
India adopted the MiG-21 in the 1960s from the Soviet Union and has either bought or manufactured under license some 872 of the jets fighters over the years. More than 400 have been lost in mishaps and in brief conflicts with Pakistan. These mishaps have killed some 200 pilots and at least 60 civilians. Citing issues with the aircraft that include corrosion, shoddy maintenance, poor training, and the lack of quality spare parts, India will phase out its remaining four active MiG-21 squadrons in September.
In 2000, India undertook a major modernization program of the aircraft to include new sensors and weapons, but that upgrade is now more than 20 years in the past. While the MiG-21 is relatively inexpensive to produce and maintain compared to modern fighter jets, they are still relics with a design almost 70 years old. In spite of their low cost, India has been unable to fit out more than 32 squadrons of aircraft which is well short of the 42 squadrons the Indian Defence Ministry believes are needed to defend the country from threats posed by Pakistan.