Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said on Tuesday that the force was “cautious and alert” to face any eventuality on the border, ANI reported. “We have seen their deployment,” he said, referring to Pakistan. “Indian Air Force is always cautious. We are responsible for air defence and we are always alert.”

Dhanoa said the IAF was prepared “not only when any enemy fighter comes in but we also keep an eye on civilian aircraft so that incidents like Purulia airdrop do not happen”.

Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had said on August 13 that there was no need for concern over the deployment of military resources by Pakistan along the Line of Control in the last few days, PTI reported. Indian troops are “always prepared should anything go wrong”, Rawat said.

There has been an increase in cross-border firing incidents after the Centre revoked the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on August 5.

However, Dhanoa lamented that the IAF was still using the MiG-21 fighter jets, which are 44 years old, NDTV reported. “We are still flying MiG-21 which is 44 years old but nobody [is] driving [even] cars of that vintage,” Dhanoa said while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh sat next to him. The air chief marshal was speaking at a seminar on modernisation and indigenisation of the IAF.

Dhanoa said the basic version of the Soviet-era fighter jet would be phased out this year. “Hopefully, I will fly the last sortie in September, subject to visibility,” he said.

Dhanoa said the aircraft has been used for decades because of the overhauling using Indian-made components. “Over 95% of components required in overhauling is made in India,” Dhanoa said. “The Russians are not flying the MiG but we are because we have overhaul facilities.”

India had in 2006 upgraded at least 110 MiG-21 jets to MiG-21 Bison. IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had been flying a MiG-21 Bison when he was shot down by Pakistani jets during a dogfight on February 27, one day after the Balakot airstrikes.

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