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The Indian Air Force (IAF) marked the end of an era in October by retiring the Number 4 Squadron, known as the Oorials, which was stationed at the Uttarlai Air Force Station in Barmer, Rajasthan. This move is part of the IAF’s plan to retire two more squadrons of the MiG-21 Bison by 2025, ultimately phasing out the entire fleet of these legendary aircraft after over 50 years of service.

While the retirement of the MiG-21s is seen as a necessary transition to more modern and advanced fighter aircraft, what’s intriguing is the potential future of these aging airframes. Surprisingly, the average age of the MiG-21s set for retirement and those yet to be retired is just 37-38 years. This means that these airframes still have approximately 7-8 years of service life left in them, opening up exciting possibilities for their repurposing into unmanned drones.

This innovative approach could serve a dual purpose. Firstly, these retired MiG-21 airframes can be transformed into robotic drones, capable of various missions and applications. The advent of supersonic drones brings a new dimension to the battlefield, and experts believe that these unmanned aircraft could potentially overwhelm the air defenses of adversaries like Taiwan, serving as a prelude to a larger-scale attack. Some even envision them as “suicide” drones, akin to unmanned Kamikaze aircraft.

Furthermore, supersonic drones, based on MiG-21 airframes, can act as effective decoys to draw out hidden air defense assets or carry a wide range of weapons. These weapons include bombs, air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground munitions, and anti-ship missiles. The versatility and speed of these drones make them valuable assets for future military operations.

While the retirement of the MiG-21 Bison squadrons signifies the end of an era, it also symbolizes the birth of a new generation of unmanned drones with incredible potential on the modern battlefield. As the IAF moves forward with its transition to more advanced aircraft, the legacy of the MiG-21s will live on in the form of these cutting-edge robotic aircraft, reshaping the dynamics of aerial warfare.

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