New Delhi: India's first supersonic jet fighter the MiG-21 FL will be decommissioned after 50 years of service on Wednesday. The aircraft had played a crucial role in the 1971 war with Pakistan.
Retiring the FL model, which is the oldest, is the first step to the Air Force's plan to retire the ageing MiG-21 fleet. To mark the occasion, four Mig-21 FL fighters will do a final flypast at the Kalaikunda base in West Bengal. IAF chief NAK Browne will be attending the ceremony.
Over the years frequent crashes have earned the aircraft the dubious nickname of 'flying coffin'. At least 200 people have died in MiG-21 crashes so far.
"The deafening roar of the MiG-21 FL afterburner, an iconic delta-wing fighter aircraft that heralded the 'supersonic era' in IAF will no longer be heard after December 11, 2013, the day it is set to fly into the annals of military aviation history," an IAF release said in New Delhi.
Being limited in numbers, the MiG-21s played a restricted role in the 1965 war but played a crucial role in the 1971 war giving IAF the air superiority over vital points and areas in the western theatre, the release said.
In the first-ever supersonic air combat that ensued over the sub-continent in 1971, an Indian Mig-21 FL claimed a PAF F-104 Starfighter with its internal twin-barrelled guns alone and by the end of hostilities the IAF Mig-21s had claimed 4 Pakistani F-104s, 2 F-6s, one each F-86 Sabre and Lockheed C-130 Hercules, it said.
The pin-point accurate attack on the Governor's House in Dhaka by IAF pilots flying the MiG-21s proved to be a turning point in the war forcing the adversary to negotiate an eventual surrender, it said.
The aircraft were also fielded in the Kargil war. The versatility of all the MiG-21 variants have immensely shaped the IAF operational philosophy for decades.
The pilots, engineers and technicians who flew and maintained the MiG-21 have been strong proponents of its exceptional combat worthiness.
Besides accomplishing major operational feats, the MiG-21 also ushered a revolutionary enhancement in the technological and manufacturing capabilities of the indigenous aerospace industry. With the phasing out of the MiG-21 FL, an era of relentless performance, precision deliverance and intimidating performance will also come to an end, the release said.
(With additional information from PTI)