Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was flying a MiG-21 Bison, which was shot down by Pakistan on February 27. He was arrested by the Pakistan Army after his parachute landed across the Line of Control (LoC) and will be repatriated Friday in a “goodwill gesture”. The incident occurred after Pakistan violated Indian airspace over Nowshera and Krishna Ghati sectors of Rajouri and Poonch districts and attempted air strikes.
Sources told The Indian Express that two MiG-21 Bison had engaged Pakistan’s intruding F-16s. One of the F-16s was locked on by an air-to-air missile fired from a MiG-21 aircraft.
What is MiG-21 Bison?
The MiG-21 Bison, one of India’s six fighter jets, is of Russian origin. It is a single engine, single seater multirole fighter aircraft. It has a maximum speed of 2,230 km/hr and carries one 23mm twin-barrel cannon with four R-60 close combat missiles. It is described as the “back-bone” of the IAF.
This version of the MiG21 — the last in a series of at least 15 variants — was flown for the first time in 1976. The MiG-21 Bison is described as an all-weather, multi-role fighter. It was inducted in the Indian Air Force in the early 1980s. India reportedly has 100 odd aircraft in its fleet.
MiG21 variants have been flown by nearly 40 countries. The former USSR began manufacturing these aircraft in the last 1950s. It still has a reputation as the world’s best fighter jet, with some 11,000 aircraft produced. Each has a life of up to 30 years.
Incidentally, a year ago, flying officer Avani Chaturvedi created history by becoming the first Indian woman pilot of the IAF to complete a solo flight in a MiG-21 Bison. Chaturvedi was from the first batch of three women officers who were commissioned as fighter pilots in the IAF in June 2016.