A rare MiG-21 variant lies hidden in plain sight at HAL Ozhar.. it almost went unnoticed but for some old fashioned aircraft spotting by various involved parties.
There is only one photograph on this page of a very rare bird that almost went unnoticed. Sometime before 2009, Aviation Journalists Phil Camp and Simon Watson visited No.11 Base Repair Depot to cover the activities of the BRD as well as the neighbouring HAL factory. Among a bunch of photographs that they took during the visit included one of a MiG-21 preserved inside the premises of the BRD.
Simon Watson in due course sent a copy of the photograph to the webmaster of this site. He catalogued it as a MiG-21FL (Type 77). And a quick glance at the photograph, we realised the significance of the aircraft. Prominent in the photo was the short chord vertical tail fin without a brake chute housing. The aircraft carried the tail number ‘C822’, which would have been a dubious serial but for the fact adding the prefix ‘B’ to it would make it totally legitimate.
|MiG-21PF (Type 76) serial BC822 can be termed the 7th MiG-21 in the IAF’s service, seen on display at Ozhar’s No.11 Base Repair Depot. Photo Courtesy : Simon Watson
It was not a MiG-21FL (Type77) that everyone assumed, but the much rarer MiG-21PF (Type 76), a sub-type of which only six examples served in the IAF. Since two of these Type 76s were destroyed in the 65 war, the survival of this Type 76 makes it even more significant. What confounded the matter was that a hard-shell canopy protection cover was put over the front part of the aircraft that obscured the one-piece canopy of this type.
The Type-76 version had the tail chute housing on the lower left of the tailpipe and not below the rudder as in the Type-77. It also had the R1L AI radar and not the R2L that came in on the Type-77. While originally the aircraft carried ‘BC’ serials, the ‘B’ prefix was dropped after these aircraft underwent an upgrade of both the radar and the engine. Air Marshal (Retd) Subhash Bhojwani, was one of the few who recollected flying BC822 after its ‘upgrade’. He wrote:
A number of Type 76’s were ‘upgraded’ and used in Type-77 squadrons, with the R1L AI radar replaced by R2L and the engine upgraded to the R-11F2S-300, however the short-chord fin and underbelly brake parachute remained untouched. Notably, these aircraft retained their original tail numbers but the prefix ‘BC’ was changed to ‘C’. 45 Sqn was equipped with C-822 (originally BC-822) and my log book shows I last flew it in Jan 79 in Tezpur before being posted out. I recall reserving this aircraft for the DASI flying inspector as the front windscreen was yellowed and foggy, which reduced the flying inspector’s spotting ability, especially when positioned 2-3km behind the defenders! C-822 must have soldiered on for several years more before being ferried to Ozhar on completion of it’s total technical life.
The aircraft started its career with the IAF in early 1965 when it was one of the six Type-76s shipped to India and then allocated to No.28 Squadron which at that time was operating with only four Type-74s. It took part in the 65 War as part of the detachment from Adampur. After its participation in the 1965 war with No.28 Squadron, BC822 actually ended up with 45 Squadron in February 1967. And at some point underwent an upgrade and changed its identity to C822. So what we thought was a mistake in a painting serial numbers was actually an intentional act.
The exact date at which this aircraft ended up as a gate guardian in Ozhar is unknown, but it is estimated to be in the 80s. It should be noted that this is not the only Type-76 preserved in India, or even in Nashik. As noted before , another Type-76 can be seen at the Artillery center in Deolali, not many miles away from this rare bird. A survival rate of 2 out of 4 known aircraft (not considering the two lost in the war) is quite high!.
Information Courtesy: Air Marshal Subhash Bhojwani, Air Marshal P S Pingale
Photos: Simon Watson
Location : lat=’20.110575’|lon=’73.922149′