Indian Air Force (IAF) MiG-21 fighter jet crashes, 2 pilots martyred

Yet another unfortunate incident of the MiG-21 fighter jet continues. IAF has officially announced the death of both the pilots in the Barmer crash.

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On Thursday late evening, an Indian Air Force (IAF) MiG-21 fighter jet crashed a few kilometres from Barmer, Rajasthan. The IAF stated that it has information about a potential crash in a statement. “We are gathering information”, it continued. When the crash occurred, the MiG was conducting a sortie over the Baytu region. The precise cause of the crash is still unknown.

Around 9.10 p.m., while flying at night, the twin-seater MiG-21 trainer that had taken off from the Uttarlai airstrip crashed close to the village of Bhimda. Local collector Lok Bandu confirms that both the pilots died in the crash. Both of the pilots died from their fatal injuries. Images from the scene showed flames spreading out from the fighter’s wreckage across a wide region.

Even as Rajnath Singh, the defence minister, phoned the IAF head Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari to inquire about the disaster, the IAF has set a court of inquiry to determine the precise cause of the crash.

Since January last year, at least six MiG-21 aircraft have crashed, killing five pilots. In the last five years alone, at least 44 military personnel have died in a total of 46 aircraft and helicopter mishaps. Particularly, the older MiG-21s of Soviet provenance, the IAF’s first true supersonic fighters introduced in 1963, have had a high crash rate over time.

MiG-21s ought to have been retired a long time ago. But after upgrading its four MiG-21 squadrons to “Bison” standards, the IAF still uses the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), which has a capacity of 16–18 aircraft. This is due to the enormous delays in the introduction of new fighters.