A MiG-21 fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed in the Bijbehara region in the Anantnag district of Kashmir on Tuesday morning, the Indian Army declared. The MiG-21, which was on a routine training sortie, crashed in the fields at Mirhama in Bijbehara.
Defence sources have revealed that the pilot of MiG-21 was killed in the crash.
J&K : Spot where the MiG-21 Aircraft crashed in Anantnag pic.twitter.com/H6nOsGuwGf
— ANI (@ANI_news) May 27, 2014
According to an official IAF statement, "One MiG-21 aircraft crashed about 10 km short of Awantipur Airbase, pilot airborne from Srinagar, was on routine training sortie."
"A Court of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate into the cause of the accident (MiG-21 Aircraft crash)," the IAF statement added.
Newly inducted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who also holds the defence portfolio as an additional charge, expressed his concern about the plane crash. "I am sorry about this news, matter of grave concern. My heart goes out to the pilot who lost his life," he said.
The accident occurred a day after the new Cabinet was announced, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over charge of the Defence Ministry to Jaitley. Modi was was busy holding bilateral meetings with the heads of government of SAARC nations when the plane crashed.
Soon after the news of the plane crash, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah took to Twitter to pray for the safety of the pilot and the people on the ground.
Reports coming in of a Mig fighter having crashed in South Kashmir. Hope the pilot & the people on the ground are safe #prayers
— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) May 27, 2014
According to reports, the IAF has inducted over 900 MiG-21s in its fleet over a period of 40 years, half of which have been lost in different crashes.
Sameer Patil, associate fellow, national security, ethnic conflict and terrorism, at Gateway House, stresses that the problem of MiG-21 plane crashes has to be addressed and dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible.
He says, “The crash of an MiG-21 jet in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district on May 27 morning is a stark reminder to India’s new government about the need to address the problem of an ageing fleet and depleting combat strength of the Indian air force (IAF). There have been a series of accidents with the MiG-21 which has a terrible safety record and hence the bane of the IAF for a long time. While the IAF has begun phasing-out the MiG-21 planes, it will take another four years to complete this process. The replacement for the MiG jets is nowhere in sight as the previous UPA government vacillated on the crucial Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal.
The new defence minister needs to streamline defence acquisitions and expedite long standing proposals so that the phase-out of other platforms is not delayed and the IAF’s operational preparedness is not affected. Additionally, the IAF is currently facing a shortage of 962 officers. The death of pilots in such crashes is a significant concern. This is relevant not only for the IAF but also the Indian army and the navy.”
With inputs from agencies.