Bengaluru: When Russian President Vladmir Putin arrives in New Delhi for the 19th Indo-Russian summit on October 4-5, three MiG-21 fighter jets built right here at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited will be gift-wrapped in Indian colours and rolled out - one Type 75 aircraft and two Type 77 - and flown back to Moskva.
The gift to President Putin, replete with pure nostalgia, will underscore the fact that despite Washington's best efforts to pry India out of Russia's arms, its oldest ally continues to be its largest arms supplier.
More so, if the other deals in the pipeline fructify including the signing of the Rs 40,000 crore S-400 air defence missile deal, the agreement to produce AK-103 assault rifles, the joint venture between HAL and Rostec, the Russian helicopter production unit to add Ka-226 light utility helicopters to the assembly line as well as 4 Talwar class frigates and two IL-78 transport planes equipped with Israeli early warning systems and the training of ISRO astronauts at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre.
The MiG-21 may no longer be produced in Russia, at least not since 1985, but in India, which inducted the MiG-21s as the IAF's first supersonic fighter back in 1963 soon after the debacle of the Sino-Indian war, there are still some 120 MiG-21s in service that will only be phased out in 2021-22. Till then, the upgraded variants Type 75 and Type 96, remain at the heart of the IAF's strike fleet....