Can an old MiG-21 aircraft destroy a more modern F-16? Yes, in fact an Indian pilot flying a version of the MiG-21 called Bison allegedly shot down a Pakistani F-16 using a Russian R-73 Vympel air to air missile, known as a high off bore-sight air-to-air weapon. 

For the record, Pakistan continues to deny one of its F-16s was shot down. But denials notwithstanding, the evidence seems increasingly compelling against Pakistan’s denial.

The R-73, a short-range missile, can be controlled by a helmet-mounted sight, allowing the pilot to look to his right or left and launch a missile that will turn in the direction the pilot’s head is pointing. Later Russian aircraft including the MiG-29 had a helmet-mounted site (HMS) called the Shchel-3UM.   This system was integrated into India’s MiG-21 Bison’s by Russian industry starting in 2006. In fact, the Indian MiG 21s received a number of upgrades – new cockpit displays and electronics, improved engines and even a coating on the aircraft to reduce radar signature.

The upgraded Bison model is much more capable than its older antecedent, the classic MiG-21, which entered service as far back as 1964. It is even better than the last of the MiGs produced by Russia, the “bis” model – bis means major improvement. But even far older MiG models were effective under certain conditions.

Fighter pilot ‘aces’

For example, a number of fighter pilot “aces” from then North Vietnam shot down American front line aircraft during the Vietnam War, including some F-104 Starfighters and the advanced third-plus generation F-4 Phantom. The Phantom, especially, was a big, powerful twin-engined aircraft that could carry a large bombing load. In US service it was also nuclear capable.

A total of 37 Phantoms – F-4B, F-4C, F-4D, F-4E and F-4J – were knocked out by Vietnamese MiG-21 pilots, mainly using Russian-supplied AA-2 Atoll missiles, a copy of the old US Sidewinder Aim-9B which the Russians got from China in 1958, or by using their 23 mm canons (Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23L) mounted internally in the MiG.


Konstantin (aka Leon Brookhill) was born in Moscow's Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyaystva (VDNKh) district on 23 February 1961 the second son of a School master. Educated at Kazan National Research Technical University Казанский национальный исследовательский технический университет имени А. Н. Туполева he graduated in Economics in 1982. He was recruited to the Soviet 40th Army serving as a Сержант in Aghanistan,later transferring to 1008th Flak Artillery Regiment, before being struck in the shoulder by a stray shell fragment. Konstantin invalided out of the Army started up as Soviet blogger 'Maaxmann', later becoming a guard for a Moscow ballet company and it was there accompanying them in the West, that he had his first taste of the 'High Life'. Failing to return to Russia he resided first in Reutlingen, where he became a correspondent for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung...later he moved to London to write for the Telegraph,where he now resides with his wife and 2 children.

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