The Indian Air Force Claims A MiG-21 Bison Managed To Shoot Down A Pakistan Air Force F-16D Block 52

Indian MiG-21 Bison (Image credit: IAF)

According to the IAF, the MiG-21 pilot who was captured yesterday took out a PAF F-16 before being shot down.

Let’s start with a disclaimer: in the last couple of days there have been a lot of conflicting claims. Some can be easily debunked, others can’t be verified hence it’s impossible to get a clear idea of what has really happened in the skies over Kashmir during clashes between Indian and Pakistani jets. We are not even sure a certain kind of aircraft took part to the skirmishes or not.

The only thing that has been confirmed by both sides is that an IAF MiG-21 Bison was shot down and its pilot captured by the Pakistani forces. We don’t know for sure which kind of aircraft downed the Indian Fishbed derivative: some sources claim if was a JF-17 Thunder, others say it was an F-16.

That said, let’s report what has been affirmed today.

According to the IAF, the MiG-21 that was shot down on Feb. 27, 2019, was part of a formation of 8 Indian fighters which included four Sukhoi 30s, two upgraded Mirage 2000s and two MiG 21 Bisons that were dispatched to engage a package of 24 PAF jets that included eight F-16s, four Mirage-3 aircraft, four JF-17 “Thunder”.

To prove its version and the presence of F-16s, the IAF showed parts of an AIM-120C5 AMRAAM air-to-air missile, which is carried only on the Pakistani F-16s, recovered east of Rajouri within the Indian territory.

But the most interesting part comes next. Indeed, the Indian Air Force declared that before it was crashed, the MiG-21 Bison managed to shoot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16D over the Line of Control:

“In the aerial combat that ensued one F-16 of the Pakistan Air Force was shot down by Indian Air Force MiG 21 Bison aircraft. The F-16 crashed and fell across the Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian Air Force lost one MiG 21 aircraft. Though the pilot ejected safely, his parachute drifted into PoJ&K, where he was taken into custody by Pakistan Army,” Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor said at a press conference in New Delhi.

“The MiG-21, from the Indian Air Force’s 51 Squadron ‘Sword Arms’ is said to have conducted the kill using a Russian Vympel R-73 close combat missile,” Shiv Aroor reported at Livefist.

No evidence to prove the claim that an F-16 was really shot down was presented.

That said, as this Author explained to Livefist, if confirmed, “the MiG-21 kill would be significant, as it would prove once again that when it deals with aerial engagement, not always does the more modern and capable weapon system (in this case the PAF F-16) wins. Several factors must be taken into consideration: pilot skills; support from other assets (including fighters and AEW aircraft), ground radars, etc. Above all, RoE play an essential role: if the Rules of Engagement require a positive VID of the opponent, a fighter might be forced to come WVR (Within Visual Range) where a MiG-21 can be particularly threatening. That’s why even 5th gen aircraft regularly train with legacy adversaries.”

This means that although we can’t verify the claim for sure we can affirm that it’s not impossible for a 3rd gen. aircraft to shoot down a 4th gen. aircraft in a WVR (Within Visual Range) engagement.

The MiG-21 Bison is an upgraded version of the Russian-made baseline MiG-21. Although the design is obsolete, its low radar visibility, instantaneous turn rate and acceleration, and the helmet mounted sight combined with high-off-boresight R-73 air-to-air missiles are among the factors that can make the upgraded MiG-21 a threatening adversary, even for more modern fighters. Let’s not forget what happened during Cope India 2004

PAF F-16D taking off from Nellis AFB during RF 16-4 (Image credit: Tomás Del Coro)



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.