It is not for nothing that MiG aircrafts are dubbed as ‘flying coffins’ and the facts provided by the Defence Minister AK Antony to the Parliament shows that the aircraft’s labelling by the media is neither uncharitable nor unjustified.
Antony informed the Rajya Sabha that a total of 872 MiG aircrafts of various types were purchased during the 15-year-period from 1966-1980. The MiG series aircrafts were inducted starting from MiG-21 in 1960s and 1970s to MiG-29 in 1980s.
Since the induction of these aircrafts in 1971-72 till April 19, 2012, as many as 482 MiG aircraft accidents took place, Antony informed. A total of 171 pilots, 39 civilians, 8 service personnel and 1 air crew lost their lives in these accidents which occurred because of human error as well as technical defects. The MiG series aircrafts were purchased as per rules and procedures of that period, far different from the present day procedures. Presently, the procurement of capital equipment is carried out as per Defence Procurement Procedure. The training of initial batches of pilots for MiG series aircrafts was carried out in erstwhile USSR, followed by training for the rest of the pilots in India. The procurement cases involving Russian origin MiG-21 Bis and MiG-27 aircrafts involved Transfer of Technology (ToT) and license production by the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).