R-73 missile: The weapon with which Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman brought down Pakistan's F-16 jet

Pakistan had on Wednesday made an unsuccessful attempt to raid military establishments in India when its F-16 fighter jets violated Indian airspace.

R-73 missile: The weapon with which Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman brought down Pakistan's F-16 jet
Photo: roe.ru

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned to India on Friday after he was handed over by Pakistan where he had been in captivity for nearly 60 hours. He had been in the enemy territory after he shot down a Pakistani F-16 with a short-range R-73 missile during a fierce dogfight on Wednesday morning. He was flying a MiG-21 Bison which crossed the Line of Control (LoC) while trying to prevent the Pakistani jets from entering the Indian airspace. During the dogfight, his MiG-21 got shot down either by a surface-to-air missile or another Pakistani jet after which he was held captive by Pakistani forces.

Here's a look at what is an R-73 missile that brought down the Pakistani F-16

The R-73E air-to-air missile is designed to engage air targets in dogfight from any direction, day or night, against the earth background and in a heavy ECM environment. It is used on fighters, bombers and attack aircraft. The high agility of the missile is achieved through the use of a unique combined gas/aerodynamic control system enabling thrust vectoring.

The missile attacks a target within the off-boresight angles of ± 45˚ at line-of-sight rates of up to 60 degrees. It is capable of intercepting targets flying at speeds up to 2,500 km per hour and altitudes of 0.02 to 20 km. It has an operational flying range of a maximum of 30 kilometres.

Pakistan had on Wednesday made an unsuccessful attempt to raid military establishments in India when its F-16 fighter jets violated Indian airspace but they were forced to retreat by Indian Air Force's MiG-21. The MiG 21 also managed to shoot down one F16 jet of PAF. 

MiG-21 vs F16 

MiG-21 is one of the most widely used fighter aircraft of the IAF. This single engine, single seater multirole fighter aircraft of Russian origin forms the backbone of the IAF. MiG-21 BISON is a multi-role, all-weather air defence aircraft which can hit a maximum speed of 2,230 kilometers per hour (Mach 2.1). It carries one 23mm twin-barrel cannon with four R-60 close combat missiles.

On the other hand, the F-16 which is also called Fighting Falcon or Viper is famous for its agility and these fighter jets were first inducted in Pakistan Air Force in early 80s. Pakistan Air Force uses the F-16C/D variants of F 16, which is a multirole combat aircraft.

The MiG 21aircraft comes equipped with modern Radar and Avionics systems and carries a mix of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. In 1962, an agreement was signed by the Indian government with the Soviet Union to buy the MiG-21 and deliveries began the next year. Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) started making the first MiG-21 in 1967 after receiving the licence from the Soviet Union. 

Available in both single-seat and double seat configuration, the F-16 Falcon is a single-engine aircraft. The fighter jet can pull 9-g manoeuvres, reaching a maximum speed over Mach 2. It has maximum high speed of 2120 kmph, a length of 15.06 metre and a wingspan of 9.96 metre. Weighing 8570 kg (dry), the F 16 jet has a maximum takeoff weight of 19200 kg. Powered by a General Electric F110-GE-129 engine, this fighter jet has a dry thrust of 17,155 lbf (76.3 kN) and Thrust with afterburner of 28,600 lbf (127 kN).

Though the MiG-21 is not a very large aircraft but it can fly at a very high speed which allows it to sneak up to enemy planes from low altitude. The presence of a delta wing, just like Mirage 2000, makes the MiG 21 highly manoeuvrable in dogfights. MiG 21 is a single seater plane with a length of 14.7 m (48 ft 2 in) and wingspan of 7.154 m (23 ft 6 in). The empty weight of MiG 21 is 5,846 kg (12,880 lb) and its loaded weight is 8,725 kg (19,230 lb) with 2 × K-13A missiles. The maximum takeoff weight of this fighter jet is 9,800 kg (21,600 lb). Powered by a 1 × Tumansky R-25-300 afterburning turbojet, the dry thrust of MiG 21 is 40.21 kN (9,040 lbf) and the thrust with afterburner is 69.62 kN; 97.1 kN WEP (15,650 lbf; 21,825 lbf WEP).

The MiG 21 is loaded with one internal 23 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23L autocannon with 200 rounds. It can carry air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, KAB-500KR TV-guided bombs and 4 × 500 kg (1,100 lb) bombs.

The F-16 can carry rockets, air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles and air-to-ship missiles along with a wide variety of bombs. Like Mirage 2000, ti also comes equipped with a radar on-board.