MIG 21 vs F-16: Can a 3rd Generation MIG-21 Really Shoot-Down A Hi-Tech F-16 Fighter Jet?

MIG 21 vs F-16 Fighter Jet – How does the Russian/Indian MIG-21 Bison compete against Pakistani/US F-16 Fighter Jet?

India insisted that its MIG-21 Bison fighter jet shot down a 4th generation Pakistani Air Force F-16 which raised many eyebrows. How do experts compare India’s MIG-21 Bison vs Pakistani F-16?

The IAF claimed that one of its MiG-21 fighters downed a PAF F-16 after Pakistan said that it had shot down two Indian jets as tensions continue to mount between India and Pakistan. The Pakistan Air Force has denied any losses adding that they did not use an F-16 during the engagement.

MiG-21 vs F-16 Fighter Jet

MiG-21 is one of the most widely used fighter aircraft of the IAF. This single-engine, single-seater multirole fighter aircraft of Russian origin forms the backbone of the IAF.

MiG-21 BISON is a multi-role, all-weather air defense aircraft which can hit a maximum speed of 2,230 kilometers per hour (Mach 2.1). It carries one 23mm twin-barrel cannon with four R-60 close combat missiles.

On the other hand, the F-16 which is also called Fighting Falcon is famous for its agility and these fighter jets were first inducted into Pakistan Air Force in the early 80s. Pakistan Air Force uses the F-16C/D variants of F 16, which is a multi-role combat aircraft.

File:Mig21atkalai.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Mig-21 – Wikimedia Commons

The MiG 21 fighter jet is equipped with modern Radar and Avionics systems and carries a mix of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons.

In 1962, an agreement was signed by the Indian government with the Soviet Union to buy the MiG-21 and deliveries began the next year. Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) started making the first MiG-21 in 1967 after receiving the license from the Soviet Union.

Available in both single-seat and double-seat configurations, the F-16 Falcon is a single-engine aircraft. The fighter jet can pull 9-g maneuvers, reaching a maximum speed over Mach 2.

It has a maximum high speed of 2120 kmph, a length of 15.06 meters and a wingspan of 9.96 meters. Weighing 8570 kg (dry), the F 16 jet has a maximum takeoff weight of 19200 kg. Powered by a General Electric F110-GE-129 engine, this fighter jet has a dry thrust of 17,155 lbf (76.3 kN) and a thrust with an afterburner of 28,600 lbf (127 kN).

Though the MiG-21 is not a very large aircraft, it can fly at a very high speed which allows it to sneak up to enemy planes from low altitude. The presence of a delta wing, just like Mirage 2000, makes the MiG 21 highly maneuverable in dogfights. MiG 21 is a single-seater plane with a length of 14.7 m (48 ft 2 in) and a wingspan of 7.154 m (23 ft 6 in).

The empty weight of MiG 21 is 5,846 kg (12,880 lb) and its loaded weight is 8,725 kg (19,230 lb) with 2 × K-13A missiles. The maximum takeoff weight of this fighter jet is 9,800 kg (21,600 lb). Powered by a 1 × Tumansky R-25-300 afterburning turbojet, the dry thrust of MiG 21 is 40.21 kN (9,040 lbf) and the thrust with afterburner is 69.62 kN; 97.1 kN WEP (15,650 lbf; 21,825 lbf WEP).

The MiG 21 is loaded with one internal 23 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23L autocannon with 200 rounds. It can carry air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, KAB-500KR TV-guided bombs and 4 × 500 kg (1,100 lb) bombs.

The F-16 can carry rockets, air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles and air-to-ship missiles along with a wide variety of bombs. Like Mirage 2000, it also comes equipped with a radar onboard.

Can a  MIG-21 Shoot-Down F-16?

News reports from battle zones often contain “inaccuracies or deliberate disinformation,” but it doesn’t mean that a MiG-21 couldn’t have hit an F-16, even though the two planes are of completely “different generations,” Mikhail Khodarenok, a military expert and retired colonel who served in Russian missile defense forces, told RT.

The MiG-21 is a third-generation supersonic jet fighter and interceptor aircraft, which was introduced into the Soviet military in 1959. The F-16 is a fourth-generation supersonic multirole fighter, which entered service with the US Air Force almost two decades later.

File:Pakistan Air Force F-16D 10806 Falcons (28928474790).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Pakistan Air Force F-16D Falcons – Wikimedia Commons

Obviously, the F-16 has much more advanced characteristics, including a combat radius of 547 km, compared to 370 km of MiG-21. However, Khodarenok explained that the MiG-21-93 ‘Bison’ used by the Indian Air Force is “a largely modernized version of the aircraft.”

“Its ‘Spear’ radar system allows tracking down incoming enemy aircraft at a distance of up to 57 kilometers” in the front and up to 30 kilometers in the rear. It can track eight targets at the same time, with “the quick search and automatic capture of visually observed targets in close combat mode concluding with the use of guided missiles or cannon.”

MiG-21 Bison boasts medium-range R-77 air-to-air self-guided missiles as part of its arsenal. They have a range of 110 kilometers and can reach the speed of 4250 km/h while carrying a 22-kilogram warhead, he said.

“So MiG-21 could’ve well shot down an F-16. And could’ve done it easily,” Khodarenok said. “Besides, the best plane is the one with the best pilot inside. The rest are details,” he concluded.

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