INDIA. Mumbai: Two pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were killed when a MiG-21, Trainer aircraft, crashed and burst into flames mid-air near Barmer in the southwestern part of Rajasthan on Thursday night.
The ill-fated jet had taken off for a night training sortie. It burst into flames mid-air and crashed to the ground, in “Isramon ka Tala” village near Bhimda village, under Baytu police station limits. The pilots had no time to leave. The crash occurred around 9.10 pm
The village is about 37 kilometers north of Barmer district headquarters. The aircraft’s debris was found scattered in the village, and the impact left a crater about 15 feet deep.
The plane was a trainer version of the Russian-origin fighter jet. IAF has some 70 MiG-21 jets which are a 1960s design, but the ones being flown are 30-35 years or more in age. The IAF had earlier announced that it intended to phase out the MiG 21 fleet by 2025.
The IAF got its first single-engine MiG-21 in 1963, and it inducted 874 variants of the Soviet-origin supersonic fighters to bolster its combat potential.
In the last year, fewer than six MiG-21 planes have crashed, killing five pilots. Cumulatively over 400 MiG-21s have been involved in accidents that have claimed the lives of around 200 pilots during the last six decades.
The Union minister and Lok Sabha MP from Barmer, Kailash Choudhary, said, “The news of two pilots being burnt alive in a plane crash in Bhimda of Barmer parliamentary constituency is very sad. The nation has lost its two sons today. In this regard, the district administration has been directed to control the fire on the spot.”
Statement from IAF
A twin-seater Mig-21 trainer aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was airborne for a training sortie from Utarlal air base in Rajasthan this evening. Around 9.10 pm. the aircraft met with an accident near Barmer.
Both pilots sustained fatal injuries. IAF deeply regrets the loss of lives and stands firmly with the bereaved families. A court of inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh spoke to IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari following the crash. The IAF chief briefed Singh on the incident in detail. Singh also mourned the death of the two pilots and extended condolences to the bereaved families.
“Deeply anguished by the loss of two Air Warriors due to an accident of IAF’s Mig-21 trainer aircraft near Barmer in Rajasthan. Their service to the nation will never be forgotten. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of sadness,” the defence minister tweeted.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot too expressed grief over the plane crash and extended his condolences to the families. He said, “Deeply saddened to know two IAF pilots have lost their lives in the line of duty when an IAF MiG-21 trainer aircraft met with an accident in Barmer. My heartfelt condolences to bereaved families. May they remain strong to bear this loss. We stand with them and share their grief.”