MiG-21 FL flies into Air Force history today
Two pairs of MiG-21 FLs - India's first supersonic jet - took off with a deafening roar from the runway of the Kalaikunda air base here at 9.45 a.m. for one last time Wednesday, and flew into the history of the Indian Air Force after 50 years of long association
The iconic jet that has been flown by nearly three out of every four fighter pilots since its inception in 1963, made its final pass in a four-aircraft box formation over the tarmac area.
A separate formation by three MiG-27 MLs roared over saluting the MiG-21s (Type-77) as Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne reviewed the parade on the ground commanded by Group Captain V.P. Singh, commander of the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU).
A MiG-21 FL bearing tail number c-1125 was towed out of the parade square to the tune of 'Auld Lang Syne', as wing walkers marched alongside.
Flight-Lieutenant L. Nagarajan, the youngest OCU pilot, handed over the Form 700 - the document log of an aircraft - of the MiG -21 to Browne, symbolising the curtains for the fighter aircraft.
Browne in his address called it a watershed moment in the IAF's history.
"Today's event marks a watershed moment in IAF's history as we reach the end of nearly five decades of remarkable operational service rendered by this iconic fighter."
"I have the greatest professional regard for MiG-21. The agility of MiG-21 cannot be matched by any of the present day fighters," IAF Chief NAK Browne said after bidding adieu to one of the first variants of MiG-21 combat aircraft, which dealt severe blows to Pakistan air force in the 1971 Bangladesh war.
Appreciating the remarkable service rendered by the squad, Browne said its unprecedented combat flexibility helped it to become the fighter backbone of IAF for a long period of time.
"In the (19)80s and 90s it constituted almost 60 per cent of combat aircraft of IAF. Around 90 per cent of IAF pilots at present have flow one or the other type of MiG-21s ie - FL-77 which was phased out today and MiG-21 BIS," he said adding all variants of MiG-21 will be phased out.
The iconic delta-wing fighter aircraft had heralded the 'supersonic era' in IAF and had played a crucial role in the 1971 war giving India air superiority over vital points and areas in the western sector.
The pin-point accurate attack on the Governor's House in Dhaka by IAF pilots flying the MiG-21s proved to be a turning point in the war, forcing the adversary to negotiate an eventual surrender. The aircraft were also fielded in the Kargil war.
Browne also released a coffee-table book and a commemorative postal stamp to mark the occasion.