"I have the greatest professional regard for MiG-21. The agility of MiG-21 cannot be matched by any of the present day fighters," Browne said after bidding adieu to one of the first variants of MiG-21 combat aircraft, which dealt severe blows to Pakistan air force in the 1971 Bangladesh war.
At the Kalaikunda airbase in West Midnapore district Flight Lieutenant L Nagarajan, the youngest Operational Conversion Unit pilot, handed over form 700 (document log of an aircraft) of MIG-21 FL to the air chief, symbolically drawing curtains on one of the most enduring saga in IAF aviation history.
Appreciating the remarkable service rendered by the squad, Browne said its unprecedented combat flexibility helped it to become the fighter backbone of IAF for a long period of time.
"In the (19)80s and 90s it constituted almost 60 per cent of combat aircraft of IAF. Around 90 per cent of IAF pilots at present have flow one or the other type of MiG-21s ie FL-77 which was phased out today and MiG-21 BIS," he said adding all variants of MiG-21 will be phased out.
A total 15 MiG-21 FLs which were operating from the Kalaikunda airbase were signed off today. In the ceremonial flypast four of the aircraft were flown while one was towed out of the parade square at the air base to mark the occasion.
The iconic delta-wing fighter aircraft had heralded the 'supersonic era' in IAF and had played a crucial role in the 1971 war giving India air superiority over vital points and areas in the western sector.
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. The aircraft were also fielded in the Kargil war.