In yet another unfortunate incident, a MIG 21 ‘Bison’ fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force crashed in Rajasthan’s Barmer. The aircraft was flying over the Baytu region of Barmer when the unwarranted accident took place. The debris of the aircraft was found scattered over a vast area of more than half a kilometer in the district’s Bhimda village.
The twin-seater trainer aircraft took off for a night sortie from Uttarlai airbase and although the exact reasons for the crash are still not known, the ill-famed MIG 21 also called the flying coffin proved to be fatal for the two pilots. The visuals on the ground showed flames from the wreckage over a large area.
One of the two deceased pilots was a mere 26-year-old Flt Lieutenant Adivitya Bal hailing from Jammu. In the past year alone, the Bison has claimed 5 pilots in separate crash incidents. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted, “Deeply anguished by the loss of two Air Warriors due to an accident of IAF’s Mig-21 trainer aircraft near Barmer in Rajasthan. Their service to the nation will never be forgotten. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of sadness.”
The concern is that with every incident comes condolences from politicians and people of repute as we continue to lose promising pilots but what we fail to address is the actual issue of this frailing fleet of 1963 inductee MIG 21.
The Soviet-built aircraft has had a very poor tack record in the past few years. Reports mention that more than 400 Bisons have crashed from 1971-72, resulting in the death of around 200 pilots along with almost 50 people on the ground.
The irony is, that the Soviet Air Force who was the pioneer of the aircraft’s design, retired it from service way back in 1985 post that even countries like Bangladesh and Afghanistan did away with the aircraft from its service. While in our case, we will be celebrating the diamond jubilee of the aging aircraft’s induction next year.
An aircraft that should have been in museums by now is still in service majorly due to the delay in induction of the indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft Tejas and with a limited number of Sukhoi and Rafale in the fleet, IAF still has to rely on the MIG 21 which lacks modern mechanics and safety features significantly.