The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 (Russian: Микоян и Гуревич МиГ-21; NATO reporting name: Fishbed) is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft, designed by the Mikoyan-GurevichDesign Bureau in the Soviet Union. It was popularly nicknamed "Balalaika", from the aircraft's planform-view resemblance to the Russian stringed musical instrument or ołówek(English: pencil) by Polish pilots due to the shape of its fuselage. The usual Finnish nickname was "Konelan Putki" (Tube of Konela), after Russian car importer, Konela-Auto OY.
Early versions are considered second-generation jet fighters, while later versions are considered to be third-generation jet fighters. Approximately 60 countries over four continents have flown the MiG-21, and it still serves many nations a half-century after its maiden flight. The fighter made aviation records. At least by name, it is the most-produced supersonic jet aircraft in aviation history and the most-produced combat aircraft since the Korean War, and it had the longest production run of a combat aircraft (1959 to 1985 over all variants).
The MiG-21 jet fighter was a continuation of Soviet jet fighters, starting with the subsonic MiG-15 and MiG-17, and the supersonic MiG-19. A number of experimental Mach 2 Soviet designs were based on nose intakes with either swept-back wings, such as the Sukhoi Su-7, or tailed deltas, of which the MiG-21 would be the most successful.
Development of what would become the MiG-21 began in the early 1950s, when Mikoyan OKB finished a preliminary design study for a prototype designated Ye-1 in 1954. This project was very quickly reworked when it was determined that the planned engine was underpowered; the redesign led to the second prototype, the Ye-2. Both these and other early prototypes featured swept wings—the first prototype with delta wings as found on production variants was the Ye-4. The Ye-4 made its maiden flight on 16 June 1955 and made its first public appearance during the Soviet Aviation Day display at Moscow's Tushino airfield in July 1956.
In the West, due to the lack of available information, early details of the MiG-21 often were confused with those of similar Soviet fighters of the era. In one instance, Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1960–1961 listed the "Fishbed" as a Sukhoi design and used an illustration of the Su-9 'Fishpot'.
The MiG-21 was the first successful Soviet aircraft combining fighter and interceptor characteristics in a single aircraft. It was a lightweight fighter, achieving Mach 2 with a relatively low-powered afterburning turbojet, and is thus comparable to the American Lockheed F-104 Starfighter and Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter and the French Dassault Mirage III. Its basic layout was used for numerous other Soviet designs; delta-winged aircraft included Su-9 interceptor and the fast E-150 prototype from MiG bureau while the mass-produced successful front fighter Su-7 and Mikoyan's I-75 experimental interceptor combined a similar fuselage shape with swept-back wings. However, the characteristic layout with the shock cone and front air intake did not see widespread use outside the USSR and finally proved to have limited development potential, mainly because of the very small space available for the radar.
Like many aircraft designed as interceptors, the MiG-21 had a short range. This was not helped by the poor placement of the fuel tanks, which caused the airplane's center of gravity to shift rearwards once two-thirds of the fuel had been used. This had the effect of making the plane statically unstable to the point of being uncontrollable, resulting in an endurance of only 45 minutes in clean condition. Additionally when more than half the fuel was used up, violent maneuveurs prevented fuel from flowing into the engine, thereby causing it to shutdown midflight. The issue of the short endurance and low fuel capacity of the MiG-21F, PF, PFM, S/SM and M/MF variants—though each had a somewhat greater fuel capacity than its predecessor—led to the development of the MT and SMT variants. These had a range increase of 250 km (155 mi) compared to the MiG-21SM, but at the cost of worsening all other performance figures (such as a lower service ceiling and slower time to altitude).
The delta wing, while excellent for a fast-climbing interceptor, meant any form of turning combat led to a rapid loss of speed. However, the light loading of the aircraft could mean that a climb rate of 235 m/s (46,250 ft/min) was possible with a combat-loaded MiG-21bis, not far short of the performance of the later F-16A. Given a skilled pilot and capable missiles, it could give a good account of itself against contemporary fighters. Its G-limits were increased from +7Gs in initial variants to +8.5Gs in the latest variants. It was replaced by the newer variable-geometry MiG-23 and MiG-27 for ground support duties. However, not until the MiG-29 would the Soviet Union ultimately replace the MiG-21 as a maneuvering dogfighter to counter new American air superiority types.
The MiG-21 was exported widely and continues to be used. The aircraft's simple controls, engine, weapons, and avionics were typical of Soviet-era military designs. The use of a tail with the delta wing aids stability and control at the extremes of the flight envelope, enhancing safety for lower-skilled pilots; this in turn enhanced its marketability in exports to developing countries with limited training programs and restricted pilot pools. While technologically inferior to the more advanced fighters it often faced, low production and maintenance costs made it a favorite of nations buying Eastern Bloc military hardware. Several Russian, Israeli and Romanian firms have begun to offer upgrade packages to MiG-21 operators, designed to bring the aircraft up to a modern standard, with greatly upgraded avionics and armaments.
MiG-21 at Aleksotas Airport (S. Dariaus / S. Gireno), Kaunas (EYKS)
A total of 10,645 aircraft were built in the USSR. They were produced in three factories: AZ 30[N 1] (3,203 aircraft) in Moscow (also known as MMZ Znamya Truda), GAZ 21 (5,765 aircraft) in Gorky [N 2] and at TAZ 31 (1,678 aircraft) in Tbilisi. Generally, Gorky built single-seaters for the Soviet forces. Moscow constructed single-seaters for export, and Tbilisi manufactured the twin-seaters both for export and for the USSR, though there were exceptions. The MiG-21R and MiG-21bis for export and for the USSR were built in Gorky, 17 single-seaters were helmed in Tbilisi (MiG-21 and MiG-21F), the MiG-21MF was first constructed in Moscow and then Gorky, and the MiG-21U was built in Moscow as well as in Tbilisi.
||83 MiG-21F; 513 MiG-21F-13; 525 MiG-21PF; 233 MiG-21PFL; 944 MiG-21PFS/PFM; 448 MiG-21R; 145 MiG-21S/SN; 349 MiG-21SM; 281 MiG-21SMT; 2013 MiG-21bis; 231 MiG-21MF
||MiG-21U (all export units); MiG-21PF (all export units); MiG-21FL (all units not built by HAL); MiG-21M (all); 15 MiG-21MT (all)
||17 MiG-21 and MiG-21F; 181 MiG-21U izdeliye 66–400 and 66–600 (1962–1966); 347 MiG-21US (1966–1970); 1133 MiG-21UM (1971 to end)
A total of 194 MiG-21F-13s were built under licence in Czechoslovakia, and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. of India built 657 MiG-21FL, MiG-21M and MiG-21bis (of which 225 were bis)
In 1961, the Indian Air Force (IAF) opted to purchase the MiG-21 over several other Western competitors. As part of the deal, the Soviet Union offered India full transfer of technology and rights for local assembly. In 1964, the MiG-21 became the first supersonic fighter jet to enter service with the IAF. Due to limited induction numbers and lack of pilot training, the IAF MiG-21 played a limited role in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. However, the IAF gained valuable experience while operating the MiG-21 for defensive sorties during the war. The positive feedback from IAF pilots during the 1965 war prompted India to place more orders for the fighter jet and also invest heavily in building the MiG-21's maintenance infrastructure and pilot training programs.
Since 1963, India has introduced more than 1,200 MiG planes into its air force. As of August 2013, at least 252 MiG-21s are known to be in operation. However, the plane has been plagued by safety problems. Since 1970 more than 170 Indian pilots and 40 civilians have been killed in MiG-21 accidents. At least 14 MiG-21s have crashed between 2010 and 2013.
On December 11, 2013, India's second generation supersonic jet fighter, MIG-21 FL was decommissioned after being in service for 50 years. 
In view of the several incidents that have occurred after the 1999 Kargil War, the modernized Mig-21Bison seems to have at present the role of an interceptor and possibly a limited role of a fighter aircraft. The remaining Mig-21 Bisons of the IAF are scheduled to be phased out by 2019.
1971 India Pakistan War
The expansion of IAF MiG-21 fleet marked a growing India-Soviet Union military partnership which enabled India to field a formidable air force to counter Chinese and Pakistani threats. The capabilities of the MiG-21 were put to the test during the Bangladesh Liberation War. During the war, the MiG-21s played a crucial role in giving the IAF air superiority over vital points and areas in the western theater of the conflict.
The 1971 war witnessed the first supersonic air combat in the subcontinent when an Indian MiG-21FLs claimed a PAF F-104 Starfighter with its GSh-23 twin-barrelled 23 mm cannon. By the time the hostilities came to an end, the IAF MiG-21s had claimed four PAF F-104s, two PAF Shenyang F-6, one PAF North American F-86 Sabre and one PAF Lockheed C-130 Hercules. According to one Western military analyst, the MiG-21s had clearly "won" the much anticipated air combat between the MiG-21 and the F-104 Starfighter.
Because of the formidable performance of the MiG-21s, several nations, including Iraq, approached India for MiG-21 pilot training. By the early 1970s, more than 120 Iraqi pilots were being trained by the Indian Air Force.