In 2009, Neptunus Lex paid tribute to the MIG-21, which he referred to as “a noble adversary.” At the time, it appeared that the airplane was about to be phased out of service by those countries still operating it. Didn’t happen that way. though…the airplane is still in use by several countries, most notably India, which still operates more than 200 of them.
Design studies for the MIG-21 began in 1953, with first flight in 1958 and production shipments beginning in 1959. As analogy for the design’s longevity, imagine the Red Baron’s Fokker triplane from 1918 still being employed in a military role in the post-Vietnam era of 1977!
An article asks: is the MIG-21 is the fighter jet that could fly for 100 years? Probably not, I imagine, at least in any kind of operational role…but it’s already done pretty well in longevity terms for a combat airplane.
Also, there’s a pretty decent movie, based on real events, about the 1966 Israeli operation to steal a MIG-21 from Iraq. The moviemakers were evidently unable to get their hands on a real MIG-21 (in 1988), so a MIG-15 was used for the flying scenes instead.
More MIG-21 information here.