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The recent crash of a Mig-21 fighter jet has once again drawn attention to the ageing fleet of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which will continue to be in service until 2025. Moreover, one more squadron is planned to be phased out later this year.

Presently, IAF operates only three Mig-21Bis squadrons that are deployed at forward airbases in the western sector. The delivery of domestically manufactured Tejas Mk1A fighter jets is expected to commence next year, and it is hoped that they will replace the Mig-21 fleet.

The IAF currently operates two squadrons of Tejas Mk1 in the southern part of India and has used them in multiple air exercises to develop tactics around the jet. The initial plan was to move the first squadron from the south to the north-western sector after completing squadron levels. However, this has not been feasible for unforeseen reasons. IAF is now relying on the first squadron of Tejas Mk1A, to be deployed at the forward airbase from 2025 onwards, to fill the void left by the Mig-21 fleet.

Despite the challenges posed by the ageing fleet, the IAF has been working hard to upgrade its capabilities. The induction of modern fighter jets like the Rafale, along with the domestic production of Tejas Mk1A, will significantly enhance the IAF’s capabilities. With the deployment of Tejas Mk1A squadrons at forward airbases, IAF’s combat readiness will be further strengthened, and it will be better equipped to handle any future security challenges.

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