Indian Air Force

Converting Mig-21’s To Drone, Is It A Good Idea?

Reports from various sources said that Vietnam is trying to convert their MIG- 21 to Kamikaze or suicide drone, so after this people started to Question whether India Should Do The Same?

Here’s Your ANSWER

Now first of all we need to understand that this process of changing aircraft to drones came from WW-2 when Japan was facing a shortage of bombs and other weapons so they started to crash their planes into the aircraft carriers of Allied powers  and did Suicide Attacks, but we know that the main motive of war is to give heavy damage to the enemy by investing a minimum capital however this is not in the case when MIG-21’s are converted to UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) or drone,

Japanese Aircraft Crashing Into US NAVY Aircraft Carrier

Why Fighter Jets Are Converted To Drone In Modern Time?

We need to understand that mostly the fighters are converted to drones for exercises and live testing of missile Defence systems in fact many defense experts say that Vietnam is converting the MIG-21 to drones just for ‘practice’ of their S-300 missile defence system, very rarely since WW-2 the fighter jets are used for ‘suicide’ attacks because extremely cheaper options like swarm drones, which except for providing heavy damage can perform many functions, for example, they can even block a hypersonic missile coming towards an aircraft and then they can literally confuse an enemy radar if in case the fighter aircraft is somehow detected and still if Mig-21’s are tried to be converted to drones there are a lot of constraints in its path.  

The Constraints In Front Of MIG-21’s For Becoming A Drone?


LACK OF MODERN FLIGHT CONTROL SYSTEM-MIG-21’S don’t have fly by wire flight control system if they had so then the developers just had to connect the machine to a device which allows the machines to respond to the signals of the controller on the ground like once was done by the USAF (United States Air Force) in the year 2010  with their F-16’s making them UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)  with a kit developed by Boeing aviation which was named as the drone peculiar equipment (DPE) kit which included Visual Augmentation System (VAS), Payload Control System (PCS), Peculiar Support Equipment, Vector Scoring System, Command Telementary System, Flight Termination System (FTS), But the MIG- 21’s have a manual flight control system which makes the task of designing the computer interface difficult and expensive.

Unmanned Q F-16

COST & RELIABILITY-When An Aircraft Like F-16’s Are Converted to QF-16 (Unmanned Version of F-16) We Know that their airframe according to the current time is suitable and apart from testing they could also be used for combat if needed, in fact not the modern F-16’s are converted to drones but the older versions are, now we know the MIG-21’s airframe is 40 + years old which itself is very “uneconomical” in itself also the cost of such programs can be seen by an example That is the developmental cost of making Cheetah Helicopters Unmanned Was expected to be RUPEES 12,500 Crores which is roughly equivalent to the cost of Three Su-57’s, Further Controlling Mig’s Manually for Pilots is a very difficult thing and it is the fastest landing Aircraft of whole ASIA apart from this we know that Maintenance of these machines is a complex process in itself because of the reason that even Russia doesn’t produce spare parts of these Aircraft now.

IAF’s Mig-21 Bison

Why Converting MIG-21’s To Drones Is Worthless For India?

Rather than going by a complex Technological aspect, Let us understand this by an Example-

We know that Mig-21 bison cost around us $ 25.1million and then the instruments which will be used in converting these aircrafts to drones will add its cost further, but for now we just assume that the cost of Mig-21 is $ 25.1 Million so now the main purpose of converting these aircraft Would be to let it go like a missile and hit the target (for combat purpose like done by Japan in WW-2), now if we load a Mig-21 to its full capacity before hitting the target then the total warhead it can carry would be between 1000-1500 kg’s so it seems good, but then an aircraft with such an old airframe and huge size can be easily detected by surface to air missiles and could be in enemy’s radar’s range as soon as it takes-off, now if this same mission is done by BRAHMOS supersonic cruise missile then a single BRAHMOS will cost around $ 2.75 million, which means around 9 BRAHMOS for a single bison which also means around 2700kg warheads and BRAHMOS even fears China as there is nothing which can detect and intercept it and dont foget it can carry nuclear warheads with it also.

BraMos Missile


Converting Mig-21’s to UAV’s is a bad idea, surely for India and as far as Vietnam is concerned Many Experts Doubt Whether Vietnam have That Much Of Resources or not but still no one should be underestimated, However Converting Mig-21’s to Drones Is really a Complex process and that’s the only reason that even countries like RUSSIA haven’t tried anything like this ever before because apart from being COMPLEX it is also COSTLY with hardly any Practical Application In real World, because of availability of Much Cheaper options like Swarm Drones, UCAV’s, etc and if it is about displaying Technological Superiority to the world then Indian AMCA MK-2 will have unmanned flying options also after These Reports Experts are debating over Possibility of Converting Tejas to UAV and Converting Tejas to UAV is much easier because of Fly By Wire Control System.

India today also have a large Variety of Drones For Combat Purpose or even for Suicidal Attacks, Know More About India’s Drone Army – Read Here,


Pratisht Chaudhry

Writing articles on Aerospace and Defence from past 4 years,. Articles written in past nominated to Royal Aeronautical and Aerospace Media awards. Currently associated with Asia's largest defence magazine, Youtube channels and Defence XP network Follow Pratisht3 on Twitter for more.

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