It was an emotional moment as people watched, amidst firing Zon guns, three MiG-27 aircraft perform the Trishul Break manoeuvre at the Kalaikunda airbase in West Midnapore Wednesday as a salute to a MiG-21 type 77 (FL) aircraft that was towed to the hangar for the last time.
The operational conversion unit here bade a final farewell to its oldest workhorse after five decades of service as the fleet of MiG-21 FL fighters was officially phased out.
For years, the IAF has depended on MiG aircraft, which also took part in the 1971 war.
Before Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne received form 700, the document log of the aircraft, he delivered a speech wherein he said that the end of nearly five decades of remarkable operational service by the iconic fighter was a watershed moment in the history of the Indian Air Force.
"No wonder, five generations of combat pilots, including myself, who have cut teeth on this veritable fighter swear by its unmatched prowess. Around 80 per cent of the serving fighter IAF aircrew have flown the T-77 and 90 per cent one of the MiG variants," Browne said, adding that "the T-77 may have completed its last sortie today but its imprint on the operational DNA of the IAF will continue for a long time. Gradually, the other variants of MiG-21 will also retire.
Group Captain T K Singha said the 15 MiG-21s that the fleet had were used for combat and training fighter pilots.
"Now, these would serve as decorative pieces or gate guardians. Some of those would also be sent to aeronautical and engineering institutes for students to study and understand the physics of the mean machines while the trainer aircraft would be sent to the Bison squadron," he said. Singha added that the replacement was yet to be decided.