Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa took the oldest variant of the Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter jet for a spin in the skies above Sulur near Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore. Flying solo in three of the five sorties, the Air Force chief took the MiG-21 through some spectacular aerial moves on clear summer skies over the last three days. The MiG-21 Type 96 entered service in 1973-74.

Though Air Force chiefs have flown fighters in the past as a gesture to boost morale, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa’s move comes in the backdrop of the ageing jet shooting down a far superior F-16 of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in an aerial combat on the Line of Control (LoC) in February this year.

Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa undertook two sorties on the two-seater trainer version of the aircraft and followed it up with three solo flights on Mig-21 Type 96, the oldest variant of the aircraft.

The Air Force chief had commanded the 17 squadron (flying Type 96) during the Kargil operations.

The shooting down of an F-16 by an IAF MiG-21 was praised as a major achievement even though PAF is yet to acknowledge that it had taken a hit during the dogfight.

The MiG-21 flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had shot down the F-16 which was part of a large package of PAF fighters trying to cross the border in Jammu and Kashmir to drop bombs at military installations in retaliation of the IAF’s bombing of a terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot.

The MiG-21 flown by Wing Commander Varthaman was a modernised variant of the fighter, called the MiG-21 Bison.