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The Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to retire 80 Mig-21Bis jets that were procured in the mid-80s, along with an additional 40 airframes kept in reserves by 2025. The state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) that has been exploring the concept of the Optionally-manned combat aircraft (OMCA), which involves converting retired jets into suicide drones for various purposes, such as carrying out attacks or baiting air defence positions within enemy airspace has been proposing making retired Mig-21s into OMCA.

The OMCA project aims to develop platforms that can carry out auto take-off and landing without any remote pilot inputs and can be armed to carry out the first wave of airstrikes in heavily saturated airspace. However, the IAF is not fully on board with this project yet.

People familiar with the matter have told idrw, that conversion of Mig-21 into OMCA would require the aircraft to be maintained in the same operational conditions as a piloted aircraft, leaving no room for compromise in its upkeep, since these aircraft are old, and spares are rare to come by as the IAF is now the oldest operator of the fleet type in the world, it might not be safe and will have limited utility.

Instead, the IAF is reportedly considering cheaper unmanned combat platforms, such as the CATS Warrior, a Loyal Wingman concept from HAL, and Warrior 2, a light Unmanned Strike platform concept. HAL has been testing the OMCA concept on a Kiran Mk2, a Stage-II Trainer aircraft, and plans to demonstrate fully autonomous flight later this year to prove the basic concept of the platform.

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