MiG 21 Indian Air Force Aircraft, Know Design & Specifications

By Naveen Singh|Updated : March 7th, 2019

Introduction to MiG 21 Aircraft in Indian Air Force along with design and specifications. With the recent skirmishes between India & Pakistan. The Pakistani govt under pressure ordered its Air Force to do significant damage to Indian military bases near PoK. Though the attack was conducted by them it did not go as planned and resulted in Pakistan losing there F-16 to nearly 5-decade old aircraft MiG -21.


Let's read about this Aircraft which is still resounding fear in the hearts of the enemy.

MiG 21 Aircraft: Indian Air Force

The MiG- 21 is an interceptor aircraft manufactured by Mikoyan Gurevich in 1959 when Russia was a part of Soviet Union.

It is developed primarily to exceed sonic speed (i.e speed of sound) and be an improvement over its predecessors MiG-15, MiG -17 & Mig-19.

The MiG-21(also known as ‘Fishbed’) was the first Soviet aircraft that combined the abilities of both an air to air combat fighter aircraft as well as an interceptor aircraft designed to attack enemy aircraft specifically.

India which is the largest operator of MiG-21 made its purchase in 1964 and as of 2019, 119 MiG’s are still in service.

The Flying Coffin:

It is observed that the plane has been plagued with serious maintenance problems. From 1970 to 2013 at least 14 MiG’s have been crashed. These crashes are not only due to engine problem but also due to weather conditions.

The Indian Air Force due to lack of budgetary cuts is not able to purchase newer aircraft and has to make do with refitting new technology in an older machine. Due to these crashes, the plane has earned the name ‘Flying Coffin’ and ‘widowmaker’.


Img Source : TOI

MIG 21 Design:

The aircraft has a delta wing which permits it to take turns without any rapid loss of speed. It has an operational range of 1210 Km, Flying speed of Mach 2 (2175 Km/h) and a surface ceiling of 17.8 Kms which makes it one of the best aircraft in its 3rd generation league.

India - Pakistan 2019 Skirmish:

After the Pulwama attack, the Indian govt has scaled up its military activity and adopted its “Offensive Defence” strategy. In retaliation to 26 Feb attack of the Indian Air Force where they conducting air strikes at Balakot, the Pakistan Air Force on 27 Feb planned to attack Indian Military bases with USA’s F-16 Aircraft. The Indian Air Force was ready with its interceptors and shot down one of the F-16s. Though the Indian MiG-21 piloted by Wing Cdr Abhinandan was also shot down but the global reaction was majorly focused on the fact that how did the Indian Pilot achieve this feat let's look at the specification of the two aircrafts:

MiG 21 Aircraft vs F-16 Aircraft:


Mig-21 Bison


Nick Name

Fish Bed

Fighting Falcon


3rd Generation

4th Generation





1210 Km

4220 km


R-73, R-77



2175 Km/h

2400 Km/h

Combat Radius

370 Km

547 Km

MIG 21 Aircraft Upgrades:

The MiG 21 also went under significant up gradation in 2006 with Multi-mode Radar, Better avionics & communication systems to give an edge over other aircraft. It was then renamed ‘MiG -21 Bison’. It was also fitted with R-73 Archer short range and R-77 medium-range anti-aircraft missile. It was also equipped with Helmet mounted displays which assisted the pilot while engaging in a dogfight.



With the new upgrades the MiG-21 Bison gave a toe to toe competition to the F-16 Falcon but as it is said that it is not the machine that wins the war, it is the man behind the machine that makes it possible. Hence it is solely the practice of the Indian Air Force pilots who do all the hard work and make the impossible, possible.


Dog Fight: Aerial battle between fighter aircraft conducted at close range.

AMRAAM: Advanced Medium Air to Air Missile. It is a fire & forgets missile, generally equipped in F-16 and other US manufactured aircraft.

More from us:

Important Study Notes for Defence Exams

Fact File Series

Weekly Current Affairs

Current Affairs Quiz

SSB Interview Tips

Keep Learning

Team BYJU'S Exam Prep


write a comment

Follow us for latest updates