DELHI, India: India will ground all of its Soviet-era Russian MiG-21 fighter jets by 2025, according to reports in the Times of India.
The move comes following the death of two Indian officers in a crash, the latest in a series of casualties involving the single-engine jet, the paper added, quoting an unnamed Indian Air Force official as stating that the MiG-21s are long past their retirement age, but must be replaced before being grounded.
Also, the Wion news outlet reported that the Indian air force has some 70 MiG-21s, but the defence ministry has been purchasing more Western-made aircraft in recent years.
While declining to confirm or deny the Times of India report, a senior defence ministry official told Reuters that discussions on the future of the MiG-21 were underway, as sourcing of spare parts from Russia was increasingly difficult due to the war in Ukraine.
Dubbed "flying coffins" by the Indian press, the MIG-21 has been the country's key fighter jet since its introduction in 1963, and has been used to strike neighboring rival Pakistan after an alleged suicide attack in the disputed Kashmir region in 2019.
This week's crash of an Indian air force MiG-21 Bison in the desert state of Rajasthan brings the number of MiG-21 crashes since last year to six, with five officers being killed.
In 2012, India's Defence Minister, A.K. Antony, told parliament that more than half of India's 872 MiG-21s had been lost to crashes over the previous four decades.