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What is wrong with MiG-21? Why do they keep crashing all the time?

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft, designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. It was popularly nicknamed "Balalaika", from the aircraft's planform-view resemblance to the Russian stringed musical instrument by Polish pilots due to the shape of its fuselage.

MiG-21 was considered as the best fighter jet, but now the question is ‘why was MiG21 considered so? Because the legacy is no more in action because of the frequent reported incidents. ┬áThe MIG-21 was primarily designed by the Soviet Union to be an “interceptor” aircraft. Which means that as soon as the Air Defense forces of USSR detect approaching enemy fighter or bomber formations, they’d scramble from their bases, gain altitude quickly and attack these targets and destroy them before they could pose a threat to the Soviet homeland.

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft, designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. It was popularly nicknamed “Balalaika”, from the aircraft’s planform-view resemblance to the Russian stringed musical instrument by Polish pilots due to the shape of its fuselage.

In the last three years, the Indian Air Force has lost 29 fighter planes including 12 MiG-21s in crashes in which six pilots lost their lives.

MiG-21 was revered as the best fighter plane of its time. Actually it was pride of Indian air force. It was extensively used in 1971 war and Kargil War. It boasted of its airframe(which was a technologically the best in 50s or 60s or even early 70s) and was one of the first supersonic jets.
India has upgraded its MiG-21 fleet to MiG-21 bis standard with BVR capability and it is still a threat to many contemporary fighter jets provided that it is being flown by some skilled and an experienced pilot. But it is not dependable very much. You probably read newspapers or listen to news and often there are instances that a MiG-21 or some other IAF MiG(except MiG-29) has crashed due to technical snag. IAF can’t lose its pilots to such accidents. Therefore, it has initiated LCA program to replace these MiGs. Even MiG-21bis has its limitations and cannot match up with the sophistications of modern jets.

We cannot dump MIGs, we should not dump MIGs. All that is required is for the government to give our esteemed engineering organizations and defense agencies better financial and support in maintaining the MIGs.

The main factor that contributes to the MIG crashes in India is overdue maintenance.It is a well known fact that MIGs are a pretty old breed of fighter planes, yet they form a major squadron of our air safety. A few reasons on why we go for MIGs instead of other awesome aircrafts –

1. MIGs come cheap.
2. Russia let us do our R&D on these aircrafts without intervention. Locke
3. We can use any missile type of our choice in MIGs. Other companies such as Lockheed Martin do not provide such liberty.
3. Maintenance of MIG aircrafts can be done by Indian engineers. Again, other companies work on warranty void is seal broken policy.
4. HAL along with their Russian counterparts work on various projects together, include some on MIGs.

Recent data compiled by the IAF and shared with Air Headquarters too shows that pilot error is not the predominant cause of crashes. Analyzing the causes behind 1,000 fighter crashes over the past several decades, the data attributes pilot error to 39 per cent of all crashes, saying technical faults are behind a slightly bigger number (39.5 per cent). Other crashes were attributed to bird hits (9 per cent), human error on ground (1.5 per cent) and faults in production by HAL (0.6 per cent).

Human error is only natural. It should be appreciated that a professional makes mistakes. But it is only one part of the story and only can experience can take care of it. But what is the other side of the coin? Not improving the technicality isn’t a human error too? A fighter pilot has no chance like these top sportsman who are firmly on ground and are able to play the next innings or the next match. It is more unfortunate when the entire blame is pushed upon the courageous pilot who faces death rather than accepting own faults. It is very difficult particularly for the families of those who lost someone close to accept error or error of judgment on the part the individual.

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