MiG 21 vs Tejas : Which Light Combat Aircraft is Best For IAF

MiG 21 vs Tejas : The MiG-21 and Tejas are two iconic fighter aircraft from India’s aviation history, representing different generations of combat aircraft. The MiG-21, known as the “Fishbed,” has been a workhorse of the Indian Air Force (IAF) for several decades, while the Tejas, India’s indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), represents the country’s aspirations for self-reliance in defense production. In this article, we’ll compare these two aircraft in terms of design, performance, and their roles in India’s air defense.

MiG 21 vs Tejas Detail Comprision

Design and Development:

MiG-21: The MiG-21, designed by the Soviet Union, first flew in the 1950s and quickly became one of the most widely produced and exported supersonic fighter aircraft. It played a pivotal role in several conflicts worldwide and was in service with the IAF for over five decades. While it was a formidable aircraft in its time, its design and avionics became outdated over the years.

Tejas: The Tejas, designed and developed by India’s HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited), represents a leap in indigenous defense production. It is a fourth-generation multirole fighter designed to meet the IAF’s modern requirements. The Tejas program faced several developmental challenges, but it has steadily matured into a capable aircraft.

Performance and Speed:

MiG-21: The MiG-21 had a top speed of around Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound) and good climb rates. However, its limited range and outdated avionics put it at a disadvantage in modern aerial combat.

Tejas: The Tejas is designed to achieve speeds of around Mach 1.6 and has a modern avionics suite. While it may not match the top speeds of the MiG-21, it offers better overall performance and maneuverability.


MiG-21: The MiG-21 had a limited operational range, making it less effective for long-distance missions.

Tejas: The Tejas features improved range capabilities, allowing it to undertake a broader range of missions, including beyond visual range engagements.

Weapons and Armament:

MiG-21: The MiG-21 was equipped with a 23mm twin-barrel cannon and could carry a mix of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions. However, its limited payload capacity restricted its versatility.

Tejas: The Tejas is armed with a 23mm GSh-23 twin-barrel cannon and can carry a wide range of modern weaponry, including Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, precision-guided munitions, and air-to-ground missiles.

Avionics and Sensors:

MiG-21: The MiG-21’s avionics were basic by modern standards, with limited radar and targeting capabilities.

Tejas: The Tejas is equipped with advanced avionics, including an AESA radar, Electronic Warfare (EW) suite, and modern sensor fusion, enhancing its situational awareness and combat effectiveness.

Role in Air Operations:

MiG-21: The MiG-21 served primarily as an interceptor and point defense fighter during its heyday. It played a significant role in the 1971 India-Pakistan war and other conflicts.

Tejas: The Tejas is designed as a multirole fighter, capable of air superiority, ground attack, and reconnaissance missions. It aims to provide the IAF with a versatile platform for modern warfare.

Impact on Modern Warfare:

The Tejas represents India’s shift towards indigenous defense production and self-reliance. While the MiG-21 had its glory days, the Tejas is better suited to meet the challenges of modern air warfare. Its advanced capabilities and versatility make it a valuable asset for India’s defense forces.

MiG 21 vs Tejas Comprision Table

Here’s a rephrased version of the comparison table between the MiG-21 and Tejas:

Parameter MiG-21 Tejas
Origin Soviet Union India
First Flight 1955 2001
Role Interceptor, Fighter-Bomber Multirole Fighter
Wingspan 7.15 meters (23 feet 5 inches) 8.2 meters (26 feet 11 inches)
Length 14.7 meters (48 feet 3 inches) 13.2 meters (43 feet 4 inches)
Height 4.1 meters (13 feet 7 inches) 4.4 meters (14 feet 9 inches)
Maximum Speed Mach 2.1 Mach 1.8
Range 1,215 kilometers (755 miles) 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles)
Service Ceiling 17,000 meters (55,775 feet) 16,500 meters (54,130 feet)
Engine Tumansky R-25 General Electric F404-GE-IN20
Thrust 40.21 kN (9,040 lbf) 53.22 kN (11,982 lbf)
Crew 1 1
Avionics Basic Advanced Multi-Mode Radar, HOTAS
Weapons Missiles, Bombs, Cannons Beyond-Visual-Range Missiles, Precision-Guided Munitions
First Operational Year 1959 2016 (Initial Operational Clearance)

This table provides a comparison of key specifications between the MiG-21 and Tejas aircraft.

Conclusion: MiG 21 vs Tejas

The comparison between the MiG-21 and Tejas highlights the evolution of India’s fighter aircraft capabilities. While the MiG-21 served India well for many years, the Tejas represents a more advanced and adaptable solution for the country’s defense needs. It signifies India’s progress in indigenous aircraft development and its commitment to modernizing its air force for the challenges of the 21st century.

Similarity between MiG 21 vs Tejas

While the MiG-21 and Tejas are two distinct generations of fighter aircraft with many differences, there are some similarities worth noting:

  1. National Origin: Both the MiG-21 and Tejas are aircraft developed for and operated by the Indian Air Force (IAF). They represent India’s involvement in the development and operation of combat aircraft.
  2. Role in Indian Air Force: Both aircraft have served and continue to serve in the IAF, contributing to India’s air defense and military capabilities.
  3. Supersonic Speed: Both the MiG-21 and Tejas are capable of achieving supersonic speeds. The MiG-21 was one of the early supersonic aircraft, while the Tejas is a more modern supersonic fighter.
  4. Air-to-Air Capability: Both aircraft are equipped with air-to-air weaponry, including cannons and air-to-air missiles. They are designed to engage enemy aircraft in aerial combat.
  5. Indigenous Development: While the MiG-21 was a Soviet-designed aircraft, the Tejas is India’s indigenous development. Both represent different eras of India’s engagement in defense manufacturing.
  6. Contribution to Military Operations: Both aircraft have played roles in various military conflicts involving India, showcasing their importance in national defense.
  7. Transition Period: The MiG-21 served as a transitional aircraft during its time, bridging the gap between older piston-engine aircraft and more modern jet fighters. Similarly, the Tejas represents a transitional step toward more advanced, indigenous fighter aircraft for India.

It’s important to note that despite these similarities, the MiG-21 and Tejas belong to different generations of fighter aircraft, with significant differences in terms of technology, capabilities, and design philosophy. The Tejas, as a more modern and versatile platform, is a testament to India’s progress in indigenous defense manufacturing.

here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the MiG-21 and Tejas fighter aircraft:

Q1: Which aircraft is older, the MiG-21 or the Tejas?

A1: The MiG-21 is older. It first flew in 1955 and entered service in the 1960s, while the Tejas had its maiden flight in 2001 and entered service in the 2010s.

Q2: Are both aircraft used by the Indian Air Force (IAF)?

A2: Yes, both the MiG-21 and Tejas have been used by the IAF. The MiG-21 has been a longstanding workhorse, while the Tejas is a more recent addition to the IAF’s fleet.

Q3: What is the main role of the MiG-21 and Tejas in the IAF?

A3: The MiG-21 primarily served as an interceptor and air superiority fighter. The Tejas is a multirole fighter designed for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

Q4: Which aircraft is more technologically advanced, the MiG-21 or Tejas?

A4: The Tejas is more technologically advanced. It features modern avionics, composite materials, and improved capabilities compared to the aging MiG-21.

Q5: How do their combat capabilities compare?

A5: The Tejas offers superior combat capabilities in terms of avionics, weapons systems, and agility compared to the MiG-21. It is a more capable multirole fighter.

Q6: Is the MiG-21 still in service with the IAF?

A6: As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, the IAF was gradually phasing out the MiG-21 due to its aging airframes. However, it’s essential to check with current sources for the latest status.

Q7: Is the Tejas entirely indigenous to India?

A7: The Tejas is a product of India’s indigenous defense industry, but it does incorporate some foreign components. It represents India’s efforts to develop its own fighter aircraft.

Q8: Are there any export versions of these aircraft?

A8: The Tejas has been offered for export, and there has been interest from other countries. The MiG-21 has been exported to various nations over the years.

Q9: What is the future outlook for these aircraft in the IAF?

A9: The MiG-21 is being phased out, and the Tejas is expected to play a more prominent role in the IAF’s future. India is also developing more advanced fighter aircraft, such as the Tejas Mk 2 and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

Please note that the status and information about these aircraft may have evolved since my last update in September 2021, so it’s advisable to refer to current sources for the latest developments.

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