A MiG-21 trainer aircraft belonging to the Indian Air Force (IAF) Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE) school crashed near its Gwalior Air Force Base in Madhya Pradesh this morning.
The fighter jet, which was on a routine mission, crashed at around 10 am. Both pilots – a Group Captain and a Squadron Leader – managed to eject safely.
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“The two pilots ejected safely, according to the information passed to us from the village head from the spot, some 60 km from the district headquarters,” Rudolf Alvares, Bhind Superintendent of Police, told news agency PTI.
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This is thought to the 12th IAF crash this year alone. The Air Force has ordered an inquiry into the incident to ascertain the cause of the crash.
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The Indian Air Force lost 27 aircraft, including 15 fighter jets and helicopters, in crashes since 2016. In the 2016-17 fiscal, six IAF fighter jets, two helicopters, one transport aircraft, and one trainer crashed. In 2017-18, the air force lost two fighter jets and one trainer aircraft in crashes.
The number rose sharply in 2018-19 with the IAF losing seven fighter jets, two helicopters, and two trainers. This included the crash of the MiG-21 fighter jet which was being piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman during a dog-fight with Pakistan Air Force planes on February 27.
On the same day, an Mi-17 helicopter also crashed killing six air force personnel. In 2019-20, so far, an AN-32 transport aircraft crashed in Arunachal Pradesh, killing 13 air force personnel earlier this month.
According to the Air Force, the MiG-21 is a Soviet-era single-engine multirole fighter/ground attack aircraft that forms the backbone of its fleet. It was first inducted into the IAF in the 1960s, soon after the Indo-China War and upgraded to the MiG-21 Bison version in 2006.
The upgrades included powerful multi-mode radars, better avionics and communication systems. Although these jets could initially only carry “dumb bombs”, they are now capable of transporting a wide range of guided munitions.