The MiG-21 fighter jet has played a crucial role in the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) history, from being considered its backbone to acquiring the infamous title of ‘flying coffin.’ The aircraft’s journey has seen various ups and downs and witnessed numerous incidents and accidents.
The Soviet Union designed the MiG-21 jet in the late 1950s, and it became a vital part of the IAF in the 1960s. This fighter aircraft has taken part in numerous operations and has played a significant role in India’s defence system.
However, the MiG-21’s reputation began to decline as it faced multiple accidents, raising concerns about the safety of its pilots. These incidents led to the term ‘flying coffin,’ reflecting the danger of flying these planes. The accidents were due to technical issues, ageing aircraft, and inadequate pilot training.
Despite these challenges, the Indian Air Force continued to rely on the MiG-21 for years due to its cost-effectiveness, availability, and proven combat capabilities. The IAF has upgraded and modernised its fleet to ensure operational efficiency and address safety concerns.
However, with the changing times and technological advancements, the IAF is gradually phasing out the MiG-21s and replacing them with more advanced aircraft like the French Rafale and the Russian Sukhoi. These new aircraft promise enhanced capabilities, better safety features, and improved performance, eventually retiring the MiG-21 and its ‘flying coffin’ legacy.