A Mig-21 Bison aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed in the fields of Soibugh, Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir this morning, with no loss of life reported in the accident. The pilot was able to eject from the aircraft and was rescued by an army helicopter.
The Defence Ministry spokesperson said the fighter aircraft had taken off from Srinagar airfield on a routine training sortie; a court of inquiry has been ordered into the cause of the accident.
Historically, Mig-21 fighters have had a poor track record when it comes to flight safety. Due to its poor safety record, the Russian-origin fighter aircraft has been given the tag, “Flying Coffin” in popular discourse. As per official records, more than 170 IAF pilots have been killed in MIG-21 accidents since 1970. Data collected by an aviation expert shows that at least six Mig-21 Bisons have been lost to accidents in the last five years.
IAF is the foremost user of MiG-21 today since its initial employment of the fighter aircraft in the 1965 Indo-Pak war. Mig-21 Bison is an upgraded version of the Mig-21 fighter which has helped the IAF prolong the life of its MiG-21 fleet. As of now, the IAF has six squadrons of the Bison.
The Mig-21s were to be replaced by the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) being developed by the HAL since the late 1990s. With the delay in development of the LCA, the IAF would have had to do away with the MiG-21s altogether if not for the Bison.
The IAF still plans to phase out all the variants of the Mig-21, now by 2022. The plan has been to replace the Mig-21 with the LCA and the
Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). With the continued delay in development of the LCA and the cancellation of the 126 Rafale MMRCA fighter deal—now the purchase of only 36 aircraft is on the cards — it is unlikely that this timeline can be adhered to.