Congress Bought MiG-21 – High Crash Rate, Pilot Deaths: Fact Check

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MiG-21 Safety Issues and Others

The MiG-21 fighter jet aircrafts have high landing speed (around 340 kmph for some variants) and restricted runway visibility owing to the canopy design. Only skilled pilots can maneuver and land it well. When in afterburner, the Jet engine operates very close to its surge line and the ingestion of even a small bird can lead to an engine surge/seizure and flame out.

IAF officers mentioned delays in getting replacements for the ageing planes, slow upgrades and shortage of aircraft as some reasons of MiG-21 accidents. MiG-21 crash survivor, Wing Commander Sanjeet Singh Kaila petitioned the courts for the scrapping of the entire fleet. An IAF officer pointed that Pakistan, which is not sound financially, does not have so many pilot deaths as they have been flying more sophisticated fighter jets for years now. In fact, the parliamentary standing committee of 2012 noted the shortages, highlighting the “overstretched” use of MiG fleet. Other countries like Romania and Indonesia have also utilized the MiG-21 series of aircrafts, but unlike India, they grounded them in later years due to lack of spare parts and the withdrawal of Soviet maintenance support.

Media has also played low key in reporting the MiG crash accidents, the loss of pilots and civilians over decades. The issue relating to national security did not come into public awareness until 2006, when Bollywood hit movie Rang De Basanti showcased it well. Consequently, the Indian Air Force began phasing out MiG-21s in batches and upgrading some. In September 2017, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed Rafale deal with France to buy 36 fighter jets in flyaway condition. Indian Air Force said it will help replace the aging MiG series fighters of Soviet era.

Hoax or Fact:

Partially Hoax.

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Prashanth Damarla