INDIA: A MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed during a training sortie in Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, in which its pilot died on the spot on Friday night, the IAF official sources said.
Pilot Wing Commander Harshit Sinha died in the crash, the IAF confirmed.
“With deep sorrow, IAF conveys the sad demise of Wing Commander Harshit Sinha in the flying accident this evening and stands firmly with the family of the braveheart,” the IAF tweeted.
As per the reports, the aircraft was on a routine training sortie. The accident occurred in the DNP area near Ganga village in sand dunes near Sudasari, under the Sam police station. Police, fire brigade, and the administration reached the spot and recovered the body of the pilot.
Confirming the news, the official handle of the Indian Air Force tweeted, “This evening, around 8:30 pm, a MiG-21 aircraft of IAF met with a flying accident in the western sector during a training sortie. Further details are awaited. An inquiry is being ordered.”
The crash has once again turned the spotlight on India’s longest-serving fighter plane, its safety record, and the IAF’s plans to replace the aging jets described as “flying coffins” with newer ones in the coming years.
This was the fifth crash involving Bison this year. The Bison is the latest variant of Mig-21 in IAF service. IAF operates four squadrons of MiG-21 Bison aircraft and each squadron has 16 to 18 fighter jets.
The IAF got its first single-engine MiG-21 in 1963, and it progressively inducted 874 variants of the Soviet-origin supersonic fighters to upgrade its combat potential. Of the 874 MiG-21 variants inducted by the IAF, more than 60% were license-produced in India.
In May 2012, the government had told Parliament that nearly 482 MiG aircraft met with an accident from 1971 to April 2012, killing 171 pilots, 39 civilians, eight service personnel, and one aircrew. The causes of accidents were both human error and technical defects.
Similarly, on Monday this week, while replying to a question the Union Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt told Rajya Sabha that seven aircraft of the IAF, including the Mirage 2000, crashed in the last two years.
“Every aircraft accident in the IAF is investigated by a Court of Inquiry (CoI) to ascertain the cause of the accident. The recommendations of the completed Court of Inquiry are implemented. Only after completion of the Court of Inquiry, the quantum of loss is finalized,” Bhatt had said.
Bhatt added that indigenously-developed Tejas aircraft is not being inducted as a replacement for MIG-21 fighter jets but as a part of the modernization of the IAF. An amount of Rs 6,653 crore was spent on the manufacturing of 24 Tejas jets till September 30.
In all 123 Tejas fighter aircraft are to be manufactured and that further production depends on the requirement of the services as well as possible exports, Bhatt said.