482 such planes have crashed in 30 years. There is someone risking a lot more than F-22 pilots.

As already explained in a previous post, there’s a very small number of U.S. combat pilots who have asked not to fly the F-22 Raptor fighter jets, or to be reassigned to other units, because of the oxygen-deprivation problems with the fifth generation stealth fighter.

However, there’s another community of aircraft pilots risking much more than the U.S. elite fighter jocks.

On May 2, India’s Defense Minister A.K. Antony said that 482 Mig-21 fighter, more than half of the India’s 873-strong Mig fleet, had met with an accident in the last three decades. Such impressive amount of mishaps caused the deaths of 171 pilots and 39 civilians.

That’s why the Indian ageing collection of Soviet-era Migs have been dubbed “widow makers” and have long been unpopular with India Air Force pilots.

I think Indian pilots deserve the right to ask to be reassigned to a safer plane too.

Image credit: Indian Air Force

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. David, this kickstarted my memory. In late 1963, I was stationed at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, new York. We operated Army aircraft out of Stewart AFB, near Newburgh, NY. At the time, Stewart AFB was headquarters for the 26th Air Division for Air Defense Command.
    There were several pilots from India undergoing training in the Air Defense technologies of that time. In their off time, the Indian pilots, being interested in all facets of aviation, visited us. india had gotten buddy-buddy with the Soviet Union and were beginning to operate Mig-21s. The pilots I talked to seemed to be pros who had trained on other aircraft of British and American design. They told us about the Mig-21’s poor range and the fact that the engines needed to be overhauled every hundred hours which the pilots considered ridiculous.
    I remember too, the comments of george W. bush flying the F-102A. Please keep in mind that 879 F-102As were built and 250 of them crashed, killing 70 pilots. Our century-series jet fighters were notoriously unforgiving. Of course, most fighter planes are that way, aren’t they?

    • Thank you Joseph,
      interesting story.
      Many of the non-American combat pilots are (in some cases, were) trained in the U.S.,UK, France, Italy, etc, that’s why they are usually pros. What makes the difference is that poorly equipped Air Forces have fewer planes, less advanced tech requiring more maintenance work, that can affect safety.

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