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Stepan Mikoyan’s memoir, “Stepan Mikoyan: Memories of Military Test-flying and Life with the Kremlin’s Elite,” offers a fascinating glimpse into the negotiations surrounding India’s first purchase of MiG-21 fighter jets.

Mikoyan, a test pilot’s son with close ties to the Soviet aviation industry, describes the arrival of the Indian delegation at Kubinka Air Base. Their task was to evaluate the MiG-21 for a potential production license purchase.

Stepan Mikoyan played a pivotal role in familiarizing Indian pilots with the MiG-21. He conducted ground briefings and accompanied them on their initial flights due to the absence of a two-seat training variant at the time.

The book reveals that the Indian delegation presented a detailed list of concerns regarding the MiG-21F variant, which lacked a radar system, a significant shortcoming compared to other advanced fighters. While the MiG-21F didn’t meet all Indian requirements, Mikoyan highlights the existence of the more advanced MiG-21PF with a superior “Sapfir” radar.

Stepan Mikoyan’s intervention proved crucial. After learning about the MiG-21PF, he informed his father, who held a prominent position in Soviet foreign trade. This ultimately led to a demonstration of the MiG-21PF for the Indian delegation, showcasing its improved capabilities.

The successful demonstration of the MiG-21PF’s radar capabilities proved decisive. Impressed by the upgraded variant, India opted to purchase a production license for the MiG-21PF, leading to its long-standing presence in the Indian Air Force inventory.

The book provides a rare glimpse into the technical discussions and decision-making processes involved in the India-Soviet MiG-21 deal. The account emphasizes the significance of pilot familiarization and training during the aircraft acquisition process.The book sheds light on the rapid advancements in fighter jet technology during the Cold War era.

The MiG-21, despite its limitations highlighted in the book, became a mainstay of the Indian Air Force for several decades. Stepan Mikoyan’s memoirs offer a valuable historical perspective on this significant defense agreement between India and the Soviet Union.