I was looking through some of the cold was Era jet fighters and noticed that the Mig-21 that was made in the 50s is still in use in places like India and such and was wondering if anyone knows why some countries still use this outdated plane when more modern ones are available?

  • $\begingroup$ You might find it hard to believe, but there are even still people driving gasoline-powered cars... $\endgroup$
    – Therac
    Commented Apr 24 at 4:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Indian Air Force Mig 21s also recieved consistent avionics and weapon systems upgrade through the years. The Bisons of today are much more advanced than Mig 21s of 1970s. $\endgroup$
    – anshabhi
    Commented Apr 24 at 7:19
  • $\begingroup$ A Mig-21 is cheap (0.33M) easy to build and has an alright airframe. $\endgroup$
    – VFA-34
    Commented Apr 25 at 13:51

1 Answer 1


Cost vs need. While it isn't the most modern fighter aircraft in the world, that doesn't mean it's useless. Countries continuing to operate it may find that it is still useful for certain types of missions that are important to them, and may not feel a need to upgrade because they don't intend to or stand no chance of competing against a country that is able to field something newer. It can still drop bombs and launch land-attack missiles just fine, even though it would be badly out-classed in a fight against a modern fighter aircraft.

Of the current militaries operating MiG-21 variants, India by far has the largest defense budget. They could buy something new, and in fact they have - their remaining MiG-21s will be removed from service by 2025. None of the other current operators are in the top 40 countries by military expenditure.

So in summary, some countries are buying newer fighters and MiG-21s are among their oldest aircraft, due to be phased out. And as for the rest of the current operators, they don't need the latest and greatest fighter badly enough to justify the extreme acquisition cost.

  • $\begingroup$ There's also the issue of availability of replacements to consider. One big operator in North Korea, who still operate Chinese variants of even older Soviet designs as well. Few countries would be willing to sell military hardware to North Korea, and even those that would are going to want payment in currencies that the DPRK is extremely short of (which TBH is all currencies except their own) $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 24 at 15:43

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