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The Indian Air Force (IAF) has taken a significant step towards the retirement of its iconic MiG-21 fighter jets. The No. 23 Squadron, also known as the “Panthers,” has relocated from its home base at Suratgarh, Rajasthan, to Nal airbase near Bikaner. This move consolidates the remaining MiG-21 fleet at a single location.

Nal already houses the No. 3 Squadron, nicknamed the “Cobras,” which also flies MiG-21s. This consolidation signifies the dwindling number of operational MiG-21s in the IAF. An official source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the relocation and the IAF’s plans for the remaining jets.

The IAF intends to retire one squadron this year and another in 2025, marking the official end of the MiG-21 era in India.

The MiG-21 served as the backbone of the IAF for several decades, forming the bulk of its fighting strength in the 1980s and 1990s. However, the aircraft has also faced criticism due to its accident rate, leading to nicknames like “Flying Coffin” and “Widow Maker.”

The IAF’s decision to phase out the MiG-21s reflects the need for modernization. Newer and more advanced aircraft are being inducted to bolster India’s air defense capabilities. This move signifies a turning point for the IAF as it bids farewell to a legendary aircraft that has served the nation with distinction for over six decades.