The Soviet MiG-21 Bison is an upgraded version of the MiG-21 that the Indian Air Force (IAF) and was inducted in the service in the 1960s. The MiG-21 Bison features a modernised radar and electronics and is capable of using beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles unlike the older MiG-21 variants. The IAF is operating around 120 MiG-21 Bisons. These aircraft are expected to be phased out completely by the next decade.
Indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) `Tejas’ will enter the service by then. Pakistan is also operating about 100 J-7 fighters — Chinese variants of the Soviet MiG-21. In 1999, the IAF had used MiG-21 for launching air strikes. One MiG-21 was shot down and its pilot, Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja, was killed on the ground by Pakistani soldiers after his aircraft crashed across the Line of Control.
Today, the MIG-21 Bison was airborne at the time Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighters carried out a bombing mission across the Line of Control. The Indian Air Force has operated a total of 874 of the lightweight, single-seat fighters over several decades.
In the 1965 war, MiG-21s had their first taste of combat with Pakistan in a limited form as the induction of these aircraft was going on. In 1965 war, the MiG-21 encountered PAF’s F-104 Starfighters, supplied by the US. The MiG-21 always played a major role in the 1971 war for the liberation of Bangladesh.
In that war, the MiG-21 had shot down the Pakistani F-104 Starfighters. IAF has several MiG-21 variants over the decades. Each offers different radar and missile capabilities. State owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., has manufactured MiG-21 variants from 1966 for about two decades
The MiG-21 was once termed as “Flying Coffin’’ after having 500 accidents over a period of time in which IAF has lost close to 200 pilots. The plane is small in size and maneuverable.