August 9, 2011: India is rapidly losing any enthusiasm for Russian military aircraft. The big problem now is the difficulty in getting spare parts, even from Indian manufacturers. India blames this on Russian unwillingness to share technical information on manufacturing spares. These are not new problems, and solutions have already been implemented.
For example, last year India announced that its fleet of MiG-21 fighters was being phased out of service. The 121 that were recently upgraded will all be retired in six years. The other 85 will be out of service by next year. India operates the largest fleet of MiG-21s, although China has even more of their MiG-21 clones, the J-7 in service. China still exports J-7s, but is rapidly retiring the ones remaining in Chinese service. Over 10,000 Mig-21s and J-7s have been produced in the last sixty years, making this the most widely manufactured jet fighter of the last century (during World War II, there were several propeller driven fighters that were produced in greater numbers.) The MiG-21 looked fearsome, but it was a bust in combat, getting shot down more often than not.
The MiG-21 was also expensive and difficult to maintain. This was often the case with all Russian aircraft, and Russia was never much help in solving these problems. As India has acquired more Western military aircraft, it was noted that maintenance was easier and cheaper, and that suppliers are more helpful. The Russian aircraft are still cheaper to buy, but in the long run, are not worth the additional costs and hassles.