The cold war had two big adversaries - the USA and the Soviet Union. It was at its height in the fifties and sixties of the last century. Both nations produced fighter interceptors. The American F-104 Starfighter was the rival of the MIG-21.The fighters often competed with each other but there was no real combat between them. The only time the planes met in combat was during the two wars between India and Pakistan from 1965-1971. There was also brief combat between the Nationalist China air force and Communist China air force over the disputed islands in the China Sea.

The Nationalist air force F-104 were attacked by Chinese MIG-19's. It was an unequal combat and the F-104 was the victor. The MIG-19 was slower than the Starfighter and really stood no chance.

Combat between the Starfighter and MIG-21

The Russian-made MIG and Lockheed Starfighter faced each other in 2 wars on the sub-continent. Pakistan was a member of US sponsored military alliances and was gifted the Starfighter. India on the other hand, having been denied western aircraft started manufacture of the MIG-21. It formed the backbone of the IAF fleet.

The MIG had a top speed of 1250 mph while the Starfighter could speed up to 1450 mph. Both planes were single seat fighter interceptors and had an altitude ceiling of 55000 ft.

They carried missiles as well as guns. The MIG had a shorter turning radius and if handled properly was more lethal than the F-104. During these 2 wars, the MIG had the better of the Starfighter and 6 of them were shot down. The skill of the PAF pilots was also a factor as many planes may otherwise have been lost because of lack of pilot skill.

Which was better?

Obviously, the MIG-21 was the better interceptor. It is still in service, while the Starfighter is obsolete and not in service. A dozen nations including the German and Israeli airforce flew the Starfighter but there were issues of safety. The US air force lost 21 pilots to air accidents. One of the top German pilots protested against the safety record of the F-104 and it was retired.

The MIG also had issuesbut was a more versatile plane. The MIG-21 is still in service with the Chinese and Air Force. The Chinese have named their version as the F-7. The MIG and the Starfighter met in battle only on the sub-continent and in those wars the MIG had a clear edge.