Wing Commander (now Group Captain) Abhinandan Varthaman, who was awarded Vir Chakra for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 combat aircraft during a dogfight over the Line of Control on February 27, 2019, was part of the squadron at the time
On September 30, the Indian Air Force will retire one of its four remaining squadrons of the ageing MiG-21 fighter jets, the Srinagar-based No. 51 squadron, also known as “Sword Arms,” an official familiar with the situation said on Monday. More than three and a half years have passed since the Indian Air Force wrote a historic episode of bravery beyond enemy lines.
At the time, Wing Commander (now Group Captain) Abhinandan Varthaman was in the squadron. He got the Vir Chakra for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet over the Line of Control on February 27, 2019.
The dogfight occurred on February 26, 2019, a day after the Indian Air Force’s Mirage-2000 aircraft blasted the area in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and destroyed a terror complex in Balakot, Pakistan. The attack was a response to the Pulwama suicide attack that killed 40 members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on February 14.
According to the official, the remaining three MiG-21 squadrons will be phased out by 2025.
A number of MiG-21 crashes in recent years have brought attention to India’s longest-serving fighter plane, its safety record, and the IAF’s plans to replace the ageing jets with newer models in the upcoming years by a number of MiG-21 crashes in recent years.
After getting its first MiG-21 with a single engine in 1963, the air force bought a total of 874 different models of the Soviet-made supersonic fighter to improve its ability to fight.
Over 400 MiG-21s have been involved in accidents over the previous six decades, killing around 200 pilots.
Because they made up the majority of the combat aircraft in the IAF’s inventory for a considerable amount of time, MiG-21s have crashed more frequently than any other fighter jet. As previously reported, because of delays in the introduction of new aircraft, the air force had to maintain its MiG-21 fleet in operation for longer than it would have preferred.
To replace the MiG-21s, the IAF is introducing various Tejas light combat aircraft versions.