There’s no reason this mixed force can’t be effective in aerial combat, Cenciotti explained. An old fighter such as the MiG-21 can be deadly under the right circumstances
The Indian air force defended its decision to send old MiG-21 fighters up against much more modern Pakistani F-16s during recent aerial skirmishes.
On Feb. 26, 2019 Indian planes crossed the line of control at India’s border with Pakistan and bombed what New Dehli described as a terrorist training camp near Balakot.
(This first appeared in March 2019.)
Several days of aerial fighting followed the bombing raid. On Feb. 27, 2019, Pakistani F-16s and other planes crossed the line of control to attack Indian forces, New Delhi claimed.
Indian MiG-21s and other fighters intercepted the Pakistanis and shot down one F-16, killing its pilot, according to the Indian government. Islamabad claimed its forces shot down two MiG-21s, but New Delhi copped to losing just one jet.
Pakistani forces captured the MiG-21 pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, and held him for two days before handing him over to Indian officials.
India’s MiG-21s, while featuring some key upgrades, still are more than 30 years old. The Pakistani F-16 that the Indians shot down reportedly was a Block 52D model that Islamabad in 2005 ordered from the United States.
“The MiG-21 is in our inventory, why will we not use it?” Indian Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa rhetorically asked reporters when questioned about the aerial disparity.
To be fair, India in the 1990s upgraded its MiG-21s to the “Bison” standard with Western-style avionics, a new radar and radar warning receiver and compatibility with modern weapons. “[It] has got better weapons system, better air-to-air missiles,” Dhanoa pointed out.
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