Jamnagar: The MiG-23MF fighters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) are due to take their final bow on 20 March before being phased out of service. According to official sources, four of the only five existing MiG23MF fighters will perform the last flight from the frontline fighter base at Jamnagar, Gujarat, before retiring as museum pieces or static displays at installations around the country.
It is expected that Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi and South Western Air Command chief Air Marshal P K Mehra will be among those present to bid farewell to the MFs that were inducted into service in the 1980s. 224 squadron (The Warlords) will operate the last flight of these aircraft.
IAF squadrons 224 and 223 were the only two units to have ever operated the swing-wing fighter. While 223 squadron switched over to MiG-29ASF in May 1989, the Warlords continued to operate the jets up till now. With their phasing out, 224 squadron will now prepare for the induction of new aircraft that the IAF is preparing to buy.
The MiG-23MF was the first swing-wing interceptor aircraft inducted for service into the IAF. Capable of top speeds of 2.35 mach (approximately 2,500 km per hour) it was the first IAF aircraft to be equipped with beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missiles. It was also, possibly, the world's most powerful single-engine fighter jet.
The MiG-23MFs carried 1.5 tonnes of munitions and also had the ability to assume air defence and ground attack roles.
With their MiG-23s, the Warlords had participated in various operations including the air defence of the Siachen glacier during 1985-86. The squadron also had the unique distinction of operating the first fighter aircraft from Thoise airfield in Ladakh on October 28, 1995.