Mig-21 Versus F-16: How Did An Ageing Jet Down One of the World’s Top Aircraft
An F16 jet of the U.S. Air Force (top) and a MIG-21, belonging to Romanian Air Force | (Photo credit: Epa/Mircea Rosca)

Toronto, February 28: India lost a Mig-21 Bison in an aerial engagement with a Pakistani F-16 a day after Indian Air Force struck deep inside Pakistani territory to target terror camps run by the Jaish-e-Mohammad. But not before a PAF F-16 was also brought down.

India inducted the Mig-21 56 years ago, and the Russian aircraft has earned the misnomer ‘Flying Coffin’ due to a spate of crashes that it has seen in the last two decades. So how did such a relic of a fighter jet manage to down a modern Pakistani jet.

The Russian aircraft was a masterpiece by the aerospace engineers of that time. The Mig-21 till today can compete in speed and maneuverability with any modern fighter jet.  In 2006, it was upgraded with powerful multi-mode radar, better avionics and communications systems to give it the edge it was lacking when competing with modern fighter jets.

WATCH: How IAF's Mig-21 Shot Down PAF's F-16

The Mig-21’s air-to-air combat effectiveness was given a boost after it was fitted with the R-73 Archer short range and R-77 medium range anti-aircraft missiles to increase its munition capacity. The Mig-21 Bison's beyond visual range missiles hence allowed the IAF pilot to lock on to Pakistani F-16s from a distance to bring it down.

As this was a close encounter, the F-16s advantage was nullified due to the upgrade provided to Mig-21 Bison with a wraparound windscreen giving it a similar view of the enemy. The Mig-21 pilot also has a helmet-mounted sighting system to provide him with situational awareness due to a bad rear-view.

The Mig-21’s basic design with a delta wing makes it an agile aircraft along with an increased fuel capacity has made it a dangerous opponent especially when it comes to defending the Indian airspace.

The Mig-21 has played a role in wars across the world from the Middle East to the Vietnam war. The Mig-21’s classic design combined with the Indian Air Force pilot’s skill has always managed to surprise the U.S.-made F-16s.