October 4, 2022

The rarest of the rare - a MiG-21F-13 - probably the only 65 war veteran MiG around..

The ‘Cut-away’ MiG-21 F-13 Type-74 at the AFTC. The aircraft in question is BC-817,

Besides HB-546, AFTC Jalahalli has another unique airframe in its collection. The aircraft, a cutaway MiG-21 F-13 is the only surviving Type 74 known to exist today with the IAF. The aircraft was first noticed on a TV program on the IAF way back in 1989. At that time it was only known that a Cutaway MiG-21 was existant at a Technical College. Later on Vijay Simha Reddy, a contributor, confirmed that the said college was in Bangalore. Only recently, in 2005 was it confirmed that it was a Type-74. B Harry had sent a photograph scanned from the IAF book ‘Images of Splendour’.

In our recent visit to AFTC in December 2005, we have procured several photographs of the MiG-21. A few questions have been answered, yet more questions are now raised.

Click to Enlarge The port side of the forward fuselage of BC-817 does not answer the question whether the aircraft carried a 30mm Cannon on that side.
The Starboard side of BC-817 shows no ejection seat in the cockpit. Click to Enlarge

BC-817 would actually be the second MiG-21 in the IAF’s service. the MiG saga with the IAF began in August 1962 when the deal was signed between India and Russia. Two months later, the first batch of Indian pilots numbered seven, along with fifteen engineers who were nominated to be trained as the ground support staff went to Russia in October 1962, when the Indo-China hostilities broke out. The pilots and engineers were then headed by Wg. Cdr. Dilbagh Singh, (later Chief of Air Staff), and were posted at Lugovaya, a desolate air force base at Kazakhstan near Tashkent. The pilots were handpicked and besides Dilbagh Singh, consisted of well known names like Sqn. Ldr. M.S.D. Wollen, Sqn. Ldr. Mukherjee etc. among others.

On their return from Russia these pilots formed the core group of fighter leaders of the new squadron, No.28 “The First Supersonics”. The squadron was raised at Chandigarh and was equipped with six MiG-21F-13s (Type 74) aircraft. These aircraft were first shipped to Bombay by ship in January 1963 after which they were assembled and flown to Chandigarh by the pilots. Before the end of the year, two of the F-13s collided in mid air, leaving just four of them to soldier on. These four aircraft were the only ones held by the Squadron till May 65 when they were augmented by six PFs (Type 76s).

Click to Enlarge The vertical fin of the MiG shows the serial number painted on the top.
The fuselage skin on starboard side of the aircraft is pretty much untouched, unlike the sectioned away portions on the port side. Unlike the port side, the fin does not carry the tail number anywhere. Click to Enlarge

In March 1965 the squadron received six MiG-21FL (Type 76) aircraft. This aircraft was more pleasant to fly than the MiG-21F because of its ‘roll-stabilization system’. It was equipped with an airborne intercept radar (RIL), the first such radar in any IAF aircraft. Inwards of 20km, the pilot could locate and intercept a target, with this radar.

The MiGs took part in the 1965 Operations. Three of the Type 76s were lost in various PAF raids, but the four remaining Type 74s survived the war without incident. BC-817 itself was flown during the 1965 war – Wg Cdr Mally Wollen himself flying a couple of sorties on the aircraft in that month.

Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge
Close up of the starboard side of the aircraft shows the muzzle fairing where the 30mm cannon barrel would have gone in.

It is not known when BC-817 arrived at AFTC Jalahalli. But it is assumed it was in the late 60s, for the Type 74s have not been recorded in service after 1966. However looking at the aircraft, it is clear that it was the subject of a major ‘project’. Sections of the aircraft skin as well as the airframe on the port side have been sectioned off and covered with plexiglass. The airframe underneath the plexiglass has been wired with colored bulbs and these sections can be illuminated as required.

Click to Enlarge Two of the distinguishing features of the MiG-21 F-13 are the smaller nose intake cone and the undernose Pitot Tube.

One of the strange quirks of life meant that we had come to know of BC-817s career in the 65 war almost on the same day we took pictures of the aircraft. But that is another story!

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