New Delhi, July 29: The Indian Air Force has drawn up a timeline of three years to phase out the remaining four MiG-21 fighter squadrons with one of them likely to retire from service in September, people familiar with the development said on Friday.
The IAF also plans to start the phasing out of the three squadrons of MiG-29 fighter jets in the next five years, they said.
At the same time, they added that the plan to phase out the Soviet-origin aircraft fleet is part of the IAF's modernisation drive and it not related to the accident of a MiG-21 in Rajasthan's Barmer last night.
Wing Commander M Rana and Flight Lieutenant AdvitiyaBal, the two pilots of the jet, were killed in the crash that once again put the spotlight on the ageing fleet.
The plan is to retire all the four MiG-21 squadrons by 2025, people familiar with the development said.
The Srinagar-based No 51 squadron will be number-plated on September 30. The number plating refers to the retirement of a squadron that generally comprises 17-20 aircraft.
The squadron, also known as 'Swordarms' was part of Operation SafedSagar' during the Kargil conflict in 1999 as well as to repulse Pakistan's retaliatory operation on February 27, 2019, a day after India's Balakot air strike inside the neighbouring country.
Wing Commander AbhinandanVarthaman, who was from the No 51 Squadron, downed an enemy jet during the aerial combat and was later conferred with the Vir Chakra award by then President Ram NathKovind. Varthaman is now a Group Captain.
Currently, the IAF has around 70 MiG-21 aircraft and 50 MiG-29 variants.
We are also planning to retire the MiG-29 fleet and the process will start in the next five years.
MiG-21s were the mainstay of the IAF for a long time. However, the aircraft has had a very poor safety record of late.