India-Pakistan: September 30, 2000


The Indian Air Force has announced that it will continue to fly its MiG-21 Fishbed fighters in service for another 10-20 years despite a series of recent crashes and complaints by pilots that the planes are unreliable and dangerous to fly. (Eight of the planes have crashed this year, bringing crashes since 1997 to 56. The problem is that the 400 MiG-21s make up half of the Indian Air Force fighter strength.) Indian pilots complain that there is a shortage of parts for the MiG-21, and many of them are flown with major sub-systems and backups in a non-operational condition. Pilots complain that there is no testing being done for metal fatigue or airframe degradation. Engineers who have refused to certify MiG-21s for continued flight have been subjected to harassment, blocked promotions, trumped-up disciplinary charges, and transfers to hardship posts. Pilots are openly skeptical of the plan to refit 125 of these old aircraft with new radars, weapons, and navigation systems since there is no plan to refurbish the airframes.--Stephen V Cole


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