planespotting
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Problems With India's Mig-21

Thu Aug 08, 2013 2:40 pm

A pretty interesting and impressive blog post in the NY Times today about India's large fleet of Mig-21s

http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/...ig-21-fighter-jets/?src=rechp&_r=0

Even as the MIG-21 stands tall in its performance for the Indian armed forces, its safety record, specifically in the past decade, has come under harsh criticism. A few months back, India’s defense minister, A.K. Antony, said that out of 29 crashes over the past three years in the Indian Air Force, 12 have been MIG-21 airframes. Two more MIG-21s have crashed since Mr. Antony put out those numbers.

It seems crazy that one of the world's largest countries is still using this second generaton fighter, despite it's relatively low maintenance costs (India also had an agreement with the former Soviet Union that allowed them to build Mig-21s in India).
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moo
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Thu Aug 08, 2013 3:37 pm

Meh, it's a cheap, old school aircraft that India has sunk costs and a massive spares inventory - they are an excellent source of hours for a pilot base that India wants to increase in stick time.

But 29 crashes across all types in 3 years? Nearly 10 a year? That's high, whatever you attribute it to! I doubt that the Mig-21 should be singled out, looks like there is an underlying issue that needs to be identified...
 
L-188
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Thu Aug 08, 2013 4:17 pm

Is worth noting that many air forces use older aircraft quite successfully in their operations.

the USAF only got rid of its last T-33 in 1988.
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planespotting
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Thu Aug 08, 2013 5:40 pm

Quoting L-188 (Reply 2):
Is worth noting that many air forces use older aircraft quite successfully in their operations.

the USAF only got rid of its last T-33 in 1988.

Of course - but the T-33 was a trainer all of its life. Inda's Mig-21s are still frontline fighters ... and India isn't exactly Bolivia or Myanmar ... it's a very large country with a sizeable, modern military.
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L-188
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Thu Aug 08, 2013 10:06 pm

The US isn't exactly Bolivia or Myanmar either. The last b-52 is around 50 years old and still in service.

I am sure I can come up with more examples
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Ozair
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:34 pm

Quoting planespotting (Reply 3):
it's a very large country with a sizeable, modern military.

It's a large country with a fraction of its military that can be classed as modern. Just like China, once you scratch below the surface you see a lot of legacy equipment, most evident in their respective fighter fleets.
 
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seahawk
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:11 am

The MiG-21 is not easy to fly, the inlet design is problematic for bird strikes, the planes and especially the engines are old (and mostly flown more hours than designed for).
 
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TripleDelta
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:33 am

Quoting seahawk (Reply 6):
The MiG-21 is not easy to fly

Actually, pilots say it's quite easy to fly - once you get it up to speed that is  . During approach and landing it indeed handles like a brick, but when operating in the speed range it is designed for - transsonic and beyond - it handles quite nicely and is very nimble. Its major problem in all regimes is endurance: even when you ease up on the throttle you're looking at around 50-60 minutes aloft without external tanks.
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:40 pm

A few years back, I had a chance to visit an large India Aerospace company and got a peek at their fab facility for some of the Mig components. I was surprised at the archaic tooling used to fab the detailed parts (mostly master gauges and hardly any digital data).

The other thing I noticed was the lack of sealant applied to the joints etc. On commercial aircraft we apply sealant everywhere to protect from corrosion.

Perhaps the extensive use of titanium on the aircraft eliminated the use of sealant, but I just can't help but believe that these Migs were not design/built to last.

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TripleDelta
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:22 pm

Quoting bikerthai (Reply 8):
but I just can't help but believe that these Migs were not design/built to last.

In European service they've shown themselves to be surprisingly durable. The Croatian AF is still flying its mid-70s bis models with some success (apart from a general lack of spares). Indeed, part of the fleet will soon undergo a life extension program, which will give them up a decade more service... even though they'll likely remain in service for much less, they'll still clock up at least 40 years of active front-line flying .

Also, aircraft of similar vintage (including newer 80s examples) are still flying in Bulgaria and Romania.

[Edited 2013-08-09 08:22:51]
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bigjku
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:46 pm

Quoting TripleDelta (Reply 9):
In European service they've shown themselves to be surprisingly durable. The Croatian AF is still flying its mid-70s bis models with some success (apart from a general lack of spares). Indeed, part of the fleet will soon undergo a life extension program, which will give them up a decade more service... even though they'll likely remain in service for much less, they'll still clock up at least 40 years of active front-line flying .

Yeah, depending on your definition of success you can keep an aircraft flying for quite a while. For a lot of nations having some fast jets that go up and fly around is good enough for what they need to accomplish. If you are only flying a dozen or two dozen aircraft it really does not matter if they are Mig-21's or SU-35's all that much.
 
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:54 pm

Quoting BigJKU (Reply 10):
For a lot of nations having some fast jets that go up and fly around is good enough for what they need to accomplish. If you are only flying a dozen or two dozen aircraft it really does not matter if they are Mig-21's or SU-35's all that much.

That is all very much true - but it nevertheless shows the durability of the aircraft itself. In Bulgarian, Croatian and Romanian service for example the -21s are still front-line birds, and are able to perform all the duties required of them in that role. All three air forces have jets in the fleet that are combat capable and not just for show (or as a paper force).
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mechatnew
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:56 pm

Most of Indain's MIG-21 were ungraded to Mig-21 Bison standard. It has a new radar, jammer, off boresight WVR missiles and radar guided BVR missiles. Still a very capable short range interceptor.
 
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Fri Aug 09, 2013 4:14 pm

People interested in the topic might want to read:

America's Secret MiG Squadron: The Red Eagles of Project CONSTANT PEG

It found that many Soviet aircraft of that era had nasty handling characteristics, so the OP's report of lots of MIG-21 crashes wasn't really a surprise to me.
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:26 pm

Up to quite recently the Italians were still operating F-104 Starfighters, which through continuous upgrades, were up to the end still capable of fighting it out with much more modern aircraft. Many western countries also still operate the F-4 Phantom II.

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comorin
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Mon Aug 12, 2013 5:23 am

It seems that one of the problems is (was) the lack of jet training aircraft, forcing cadets to directly migrate from single engine prop trainers directly to the Mig-21. Fortunately, with the paperwork, delays etc out of the way, the IAF has inducted Pilatii and BAE Hawks as a stepping stone.

Quoting bikerthai (Reply 8):
A few years back, I had a chance to visit an large India Aerospace company and got a peek at their fab facility for some of the Mig components. I was surprised at the archaic tooling used to fab the detailed parts (mostly master gauges and hardly any digital data).

The other thing I noticed was the lack of sealant applied to the joints etc. On commercial aircraft we apply sealant everywhere to protect from corrosion.

Perhaps the extensive use of titanium on the aircraft eliminated the use of sealant, but I just can't help but believe that these Migs were not design/built to last.

bt

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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Mon Aug 12, 2013 7:13 am

Quoting TripleDelta (Reply 7):
Actually, pilots say it's quite easy to fly - once you get it up to speed that is . During approach and landing it indeed handles like a brick, but when operating in the speed range it is designed for - transsonic and beyond - it handles quite nicely and is very nimble. Its major problem in all regimes is endurance: even when you ease up on the throttle you're looking at around 50-60 minutes aloft without external tanks.

True but it seems like many accidents happen during landing. Many bird strikes, which the 21 does really not like, and many pilot errors. But that is not surprising as the Indian training system is not up to speed and the MiG 21 is used as much as an operational aircraft as an advanced trainer, for which it is not that suited.
 
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Mon Aug 12, 2013 10:22 am

1 point about the MIG21, is that it is still basicly the same generation as the F104, Lightning, Mirage 3 etc.

Accident rates were much higher then.
 
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Mon Aug 12, 2013 11:00 pm

Quoting Revelation (Reply 13):
It found that many Soviet aircraft of that era had nasty handling characteristics, so the OP's report of lots of MIG-21 crashes wasn't really a surprise to me.

Not really the best source for that assumption. When the guys flying them were basically flying a completely foreign to them piece of equipment with no training for type of course they "handle bad".
 
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:31 am

Quoting seahawk (Reply 16):
True but it seems like many accidents happen during landing. Many bird strikes, which the 21 does really not like, and many pilot errors. But that is not surprising as the Indian training system is not up to speed and the MiG 21 is used as much as an operational aircraft as an advanced trainer, for which it is not that suited.

Remind you of a similar aircraft in German service?  The Starfighter was designed with the same performance principle in mind, had the same low speed issues - and suffered greatly from a politically-forced rapid introduction into service that eventually culminated in the loss of almost 30% of the entire fleet (most of which in the first years of service).

However, the arrival of Johannes Steinhoff had turned the Starfighter force - and indeed the entire Luftwaffe - into a smooth-running model of efficiency which it is still today. Drawing a comparison with India, the problem appears to lie more, as you said, in the deficiencies of the entire AF system rather than the issues of the aircraft itself. MiG-21 losses - like those of the Starfighter - are just symptoms of a rotted command structure.
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Thu Aug 15, 2013 5:24 am

Quoting sovietjet (Reply 18):
Not really the best source for that assumption. When the guys flying them were basically flying a completely foreign to them piece of equipment with no training for type of course they "handle bad".

About 20 years ago when US-USSR relations were thawing (maybe later and it was US-Russia), some US pilots went to Russia to fly some late model Russian planes, and Russian pilots came to the US to do the same. The Russian pilots weren't allowed to fly F15s or F16s, but instead they got to fly F4s. When a reporter asked a Russian pilot what he thought of the F4 he said "it handles like a steamboat."
 
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:46 pm

Quoting sovietjet (Reply 18):
When the guys flying them were basically flying a completely foreign to them piece of equipment with no training for type of course they "handle bad".

Not sure you'd reach the same conclusion if you read the book...
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RE: Problems With India's Mig-21

Thu Aug 15, 2013 8:49 pm

Article briefly touched upon the main reason for so many crashes.

IAF lacks good basic trainer aircraft. For too long they depended on a domestic built basic trainer, which is no where close to Mig-21 capabilities.

IAF purchased BAE Hawk, which is an advanced trainer aircraft. Missed the point.

Finally last May IAF purchased 112 x Pilatus PC-7s. They are supposed to get 2 per month. Probably too late to save any Mig-21s but good to have a basic trainer, when most of the pilots are young.

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