MiG-21, do we need any introduction? One of the most produced combat jets in the world. The first supersonic jet in the Indian Air force. The most successful and longest servicing combat jet in Indian history. Since its induction in 1963, MiG-21 has participated in all major conflicts [1]. Outside the former Soviet Union, India was the second-largest operator and had built around 657 MiG-21s of different versions locally [2].

The aircraft was mass-produced in the Soviet bloc states and therefore it resulted in that a piece of MiG-21MF was cheaper than a BMP-1 infantry vehicle [3]. It was the most advanced aircraft produced in the Soviet Union and gave a head-to-head to western competition during the cold war. Such was the caliber of MiG-21 that the Israeli spy agency Mossad had launched a mission called ‘operation diamond’ to acquire these advanced soviet aircraft. In 1966 they were successful in their mission when they landed an Iraqi MiG-21 in Israel [4]. During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, even though our western neighbor possessed advanced aircrafts such as F-104 Starfighter, F-86 Sabre, etc. just for a single lossMiG-21 had scored thirteen kills. It was a champion on both eastern and western fronts during the war [5]. There are many such legends of these aircraft that we can keep heaping praise about it throughout this entire article.

More than 400 MiG-21s have been lost in accidents over the years claiming around 200 lives hence earning the sobriquet of ‘flying coffin’[6]. But an aircraft that is still performing beyond its expectations and has contributed immensely to all major skirmishes since the 1960s should be given its due respect. Mig-21 is expected to be decommissioned by 2024, therefore IAF needs to replace these supersonic jets as soon as possible [7].

IAF’s depleting squadron strength is worrisome therefore the indigenous LCA Tejas was intended as a replacement to supplement the squadron strength (Note: Tejas is not replacing the Mig-21s place but as a part of IAF’s modernization and squadron strength strategy [8]) Even though finally the IAF has ordered 83 Tejas, but the LCA program itself is running behind its expected schedule [9]. Therefore, as a stop-gap to maintain the squadron strength MMRCA tender was floated in 2007 [10].

Both MMRCA and 2.0 programs are a colossal mismanagement by Indian acquisition Systems. Look at the timeline of the acquisition program. The requirement tender was first floated in 2007 and it has been 15 years and 3 general elections have taken place since then. And at the present date also we are nowhere close to finalize the deal even though the requirement is very well needed. One can understand the complexities regarding the Technology transfer since the requirement was huge. But that is where we need to work it out. Indians are considered as capable managers in the contemporary world almost in all sectors,then why can’t we close this deal of such national importance? What is the conundrum?
Look at the aircraft deals that were sealed by other countries during the last 5 years right under the

MMRCA timeline.
• 42 Rafale and 36 F-15 to Indonesia in 2022[11]
• 80 Rafale’s and 12 Eurocopter EC725s to UAE in 2021[12]
• 24 Rafale to Greece in 2021[13]
• 36 JAS gripen to Brazil in 2021[14]
• 66 F16 to Taiwan in 2019[15]

As an interim step- a deal for 36 Rafale aircrafts was signed (IAF had selected the Dassault Rafale among the MMRCA participants), this deal subsequently entered the heated political controversy. Now look at the above sales of Dassault Rafale which is impressive. somewhere one can have a notion that the Indian media gave the much-needed marketing or publicity for Dassault Rafale during the political controversy. Orders for the Rafale’s have considerably increased and might continue to do so. Therefore, we are at such a crucial juncture that any delays further will even take away the bargaining bait i.e., being the “Mother of all deals”[16].

















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