The Indian Defence Minister AK Antony has revealed the shoddy track record of the MiG fighters ever since their induction in the IAF. Defence Minister Antony has stated in the Parliament that 482 of the 872 Russian-origin MiGs procured since 1966 had crashed from 1971-72 onwards. Owing to these crashes, a total of 171 pilots, 39 civilians, eight service personnel and one aircrew have lost their lives. The cause of these mishaps was both human error and technical defects, he added.
While the phasing out of older MiG-21 interceptors, ground attack MiG-23 s and high-altitude strategic reconnaissance MiG-25 s has taken place, the IAF will still have the upgraded MiG-21 "Bisons" and medium-range strike MiG-27 s in its fleet till at least 2017 due to the shortage in the number of fighter squadrons. As for the roughly 60 MiG-29 air Defence fighters, these will be with the IAF till the next decade as they are undergoing an extensive mid-life upgrade under a $ 964-million contract inked with Russia in March, 2008.
With the large number of crashes involved in connection to the MiG-21 fleet, Defence Minister AK Antony had announced earlier that the phasing out of the MiG-21 from IAF will begin from 2014. The older variants of the MiG-21’s are already getting phased out and the process will be over by 2017. The MiG 21s constitute around 40 per cent of the IAF fleet and its obsolete technology has severely hampered the performance of the IAF.
The IAF Chief had also confirmed earlier that the last batch of trainee pilots flying the MiG-21s will finish their course in December 2012 and thereafter, only experienced pilots would be flying the MiG-21s till they are phased out completely. The delays in the delivery of Hawk trainer had forced the IAF to train young cadets on MiG21s.
AK Antony had indicated earlier that the IAF will have a new and powerful fleet of next generation aircraft as the MiG-21’s will be completely phased out by 2017. AK Antony stated that the induction of modern next generation aircraft such as Su-30MKI, fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and 126 new medium-multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA), the IAF will have complete overhaul in its fleet and will become a dynamic force.
The MiG fighters have been in the IAF fleet for so long since their absence would diminish the force level significantly. With the MiGs still constituting around 50 per cent of India's combat fleet, their immediate exclusion from the fleet is not a viable option for India. The IAF is the world's fourth largest air force and has fighter squadron strength of about 34 against the sanctioned 39. Even this figure will fall to 31 fighter squadrons during the 12th Plan (2012-17), according to Defence analysts.