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India confirms plans to retire oldest MiG-21s

India's government is to phase out its oldest MiG-series aircraft, following a spate of crashes.

"A total of 21 MiG aircraft have crashed during the last three years," defence minister AK Antony told India's parliament. The accidents resulted in four deaths.

The oldest type in the air force inventory is the MiG-21 and these are being phased out, Antony says. The service has about 200 MiG-21s, most of which were made under licence by India's Hindustan Aeronautics.

An upgrade programme was performed on 121 of the aircraft several years ago, adding equipment including a Phazotron Kopyo radar. Unmodified examples will be phased out within the next three years, say Indian sources, with the improved MiG-21 Bisons likely to remain in use until 2017.

The phase-out of the oldest MiG-21s comes as the air force continues to add new Sukhoi Su-30MKIs and upgrade its MiG-29s.

The service also has a competition under way to procure 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, and the indigenous Aeronautical Development Agency Tejas light combat aircraft is expected to be inducted into use from late this year.

India is also talking to Russia about jointly developing a fifth-generation fighter based on the Sukhoi PAK FA demonstrator.

"In the years to come, aerospace power will prove to be the decisive factor in shaping the outcome of conflicts," Antony says.

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