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Day of crashes: in air, on ground Jaguar rams into homes

Ambala and New Delhi, Nov. 5: A Jaguar fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force today ploughed into houses near the Ambala airfield, killing at least two people and seriously injuring the pilot.

The toll could rise because a number of people are said to be trapped inside the two houses that were damaged in Baghyal, which is 5 km from the airfield.

Seven injured people were admitted to the military hospital in Ambala.

The bodies of a 40-year-old woman, Lajo, and a 12-year-old child, Bharat, have been recovered from the debris of the houses that collapsed after catching fire when pieces of the aircraft fell on them.

Fragments of the twin-engine plane were strewn across an area of about 100 yards, eyewitnesses said.

The Jaguar is the second aircraft from its squadron to have crashed this year.

The IAF’s Ambala base is a crucial establishment of the force, whose 14 squadron and 5 squadron consist of the Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft.

In May, flying officer Paliwal was killed after his Jaguar could not complete a take-off and crashed metres off the runway.

In today’s incident, flight lieutenant Rehani, 30, was bailed out from his plane but is reported to have sustained spinal injuries. He has been admitted to the military hospital in Ambala.

An IAF spokesman said preliminary reports suggest that Rehani had lost control of the aircraft because of a mechanical failure and it was not stable enough for the pilot to eject. The plane was about 5 km from the airfield and still climbing.

According to IAF sources in Delhi, seven persons have been admitted to the military hospital. It is possible that the casualty figure may be more than two.

At least nine IAF aircraft have crashed so far this year. The casualty rate of the MiG-21 is highest but two Jaguar crashes in a year mean the loss of two vital strike aircraft.

The IAF has six squadrons of the attack planes that are also used for reconnaissance. The single-seater Jaguar, originally of Anglo-French make (British Aerospace and Dassault), has a lower casualty rate (1.67 for every 10,000 hours of flying) than the MiGs (2.37 for every 10,000 hours). It is now produced under licence at Hindustan Aeronautics. The Indian Jaguar has been re-christened the “Shamsher”.

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