It is a matter of great relief that no casualty happened and the prompt action of an Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot saved his Jaguar fighter jet on Thursday. The pilot jettisoned the aircraft’s fuel tanks and small practice bombs after one of the engines failed due to a bird hit.
Indian-designed warplanes have so far not been up to the job. But more than seven years since a deal was signed to buy Rafale fighters from France, India is yet to receive these fighter planes. Some people say that it is not what India needs.
The Russian-made MiG jet is called the flying coffin. Seven years ago, India’s then defence minister A K Antony said in the Rajya Sabha that 482 of the 872 Russian-origin MiGs procured since 1966 had crashed from 1971-72 onwards. A total of 171 pilots, 39 civilians, eight service personnel and one aircrew lost their lives in these accidents. The causes of accidents were both human error and technical defects.
According to Hyderabad-based defence and aviation historian, KS Nair, said that 60 per cent of the Indian Air Force fleet is over 30 years old, because of which technical snag crashes happen regularly. Except for Sukhois, most of the fleet has ageing aircraft. The Indian Air Force has been using the same planes since the last 30-35 years. IAF claims that they have reconditioned all these aircraft but who is accountable for the numerous mishaps of these planes and the lives lost? In the last 4 years, 29 IAF planes crashed claiming 53 lives. Here is a list of most of the accidents involving Jaguar aircraft, MiG-21, AN-32, and Sukhoi Su-30 planes over the last decade:
June 10, 2009: One of the first AN-32 accidents reported was when an aircraft crashed in Arunachal Pradesh, killing all 13 people onboard. This incident is reportedly what prompted India to upgrade the aircraft in the air force.
July 22, 2016: In 2016, an aircraft travelling from Chennai to Port Blair went missing in July with 29 people onboard. However, after the search operations yielded no results, all the people were presumed dead and the search was called off.
June 3, 2019: All 13 personnel on board an AN-32 transport aircraft that crashed in a heavily forested mountainous area in Arunachal Pradesh on June 3 were killed.
Sukhoi Su-30 aircraft
April 30, 2009: An IAF pilot killed and another seriously injured in the first-ever Su-30 MKI fighter jet crash near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
November 30, 2009: A Sukhoi fighter jet crashed during a routine training sortie south-west of Pokhran firing ranges in Rajasthan. The two pilots, Wing Commander Srivastava, and Flight Lieutenant Arora, bailed out safely.
December 13, 2011: A Sukhoi jet crashed soon after taking off from Lohegaon airbase near Pune but both the pilots managed to bail out safely. The aircraft was on a routine mission.
February 19, 2013: A Sukhoi aircraft crashed in Jaisalmer but both the pilots bailed out safely. There was no loss of life or damage to property on the ground.
October 14, 2014: A Sukhoi jet crashed at a village near Pune. Both the pilot and the co-pilot were unharmed.
May 19, 2015: A Sukhoi fighter crashed at Laokhowa in Nagaon district of Assam with both the pilot and co-pilot ejecting safely. It was on a routine sortie from Tezpur Air Force station and lost radar connection and crashed thereafter.
March 15, 2017: A Sukhoi aircraft crashed in Rajasthan’s Barmer district, injuring three villagers. Both the pilots ejected safely from the plane.
June 27, 2018: A Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter jet has crashed near Nashik in Maharashtra on June 27, 2018.
July 14, 2018: A Sukhoi Su-30MKI went missing while on a training mission near Tezpur, Assam. The aircraft’s wreckage was found three days later along with the black box. Both the pilots, Ft Lt Achudev and Sqn Ld D Pankaj were killed as they were unable to eject before the crash.
April 4, 2002: A MIG-21 crashed in Jodhpur district in Rajasthan. The pilot ejected safely.
May 3, 2002: At least seven people died when a MiG-21 crashed into a residential area in Punjab.
June 26, 2002: A MiG-27 caught fire on the runway at the military airport in Srinagar.
June 26, 2002: A Mig-23 fighter crashed in Punjab at the peak of India-Pakistan tensions but the Pilot ejected safely.
July 15, 2002: A MiG-21 aircraft caught fire in mid-air and crashed into a pond in a sparsely-populated village near Phansidewa in Darjeeling district in West Bengal. The pilot and a trainee pilot ejected and were rescued with minor injuries.
September 9, 2002: Two fighter planes of MiG-21 variant, which had been cleared for flying after being grounded for weeks, crashed in Haryana and Rajasthan. The pilots bailed out unhurt. One jet crashed in the fields on the outskirts of Chaurmaspur village near Ambala cantonment while another crashed in Shivpur in Pali district in Rajasthan.
April 4, 2003: Three women and a child on the ground were killed and five persons were injured, four of them seriously, after a Mig-23 fighter crashed in a residential area in Dashmesh Nagar locality in Ludhiana in Punjab.
April 7, 2003: A MiG-21 fighter jet crashed into a milk processing plant in Haryana, injuring at least three people.
June 4, 2003: A MiG-21 aircraft of Indian Air Force crashed shortly after take-off from Uttarlai Air Base in Rajasthan killing the pilot. Flight Lt AS Jamwal was killed after the aircraft caught fire and plunged into a nearby field in Barmer.
July 15, 2003: A twin-seater MiG-21 fighter-trainer crashed near Srinagar airbase. Both pilots — Wing Commander R Rastogi and Flight Lieutenant Ganesh — were killed. The jet hit the ground after it suffered the loss of power while trying to pull up from a low-flying position. This was the sixth IAF fighter and the fifth of the MiG series to crash in 2003.
March 8, 2018: An Indian Air Force’s MiG-21 crashed near Nal in Rajasthan, however, the pilot ejected safely. A court of inquiry was set up to investigate the cause of the accident. IAF spokesperson Group Captain Anupam Banerjee said initial inputs indicated that the likely cause was a bird which was hit after take off.
March 31, 2018: A MiG 27 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed near Jodhpur in Rajasthan but the pilot ejected safely. The fighter jet had taken off from the Utarlai airforce base but the jet experienced engine problems leading to the crash at around 11.45 am in Sirohi district around 120 kilometres south of Jodhpur.
May 8, 2018: A MiG- 27 aircraft had crashed at Tantipara near Alipurduar town in West Bengal following a technical problem, killing two civilians on the ground though the pilot ejected safely. A court of inquiry was ordered.
January 28, 2019: A MiG 27 crashed near Jodhpur’s Banad area.
June 5, 2018: Air Commodore Sanjay Chauhan passed away after his Jaguar fighter plane went down in the Mundra taluk of the Kutch region in northwestern Gujarat. This was the second alarming incident in the month of June 2018 with an Indian Air Force Jaguar.
June 8, 2018: An Indian Air Force’s ‘Jaguar’ developed a snag while landing and had a minor accident. The pilot was on a routine training mission from the Jamnagar Air Force base.
January 28, 2019: A Jaguar fighter of the Indian Air Force crashed in the Kushinagar district Uttar Pradesh. Though, the pilot was able to eject safely in time using his tactical expertise to land the plane away from the habitation nearby. A court of enquiry was ordered to investigate the accident, the Defence PRO in Lucknow said.
June 27, 2019: The prompt action of an Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot saved his Jaguar fighter jet on June 27. The pilot jettisoned the aircraft’s fuel tanks and small practice bombs after one of the engines failed due to a bird hit.
February 1, 2019: A Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft, which was recently upgraded by the defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), crashed soon after taking off at the HAL airport resulting in the deaths of Sqn Ldr Siddartha Negi and Sqn Ldr Samir Abrol, both test pilots with the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE).
The aircraft was repaired by HAL and was in HAL airport for an acceptance test flight before reinduction. HAL, which has been upgrading the Mirage fleet under a contract from 2015, said: The Company has initiated an enquiry into the accident in coordination with the Indian Air Force.”