Srinagar, April 2: Two Jaguars, known as the sword of justice in the Indian Air Force, today went missing over Sonamarg mountains near the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
A senior police official told Reuters that the fighter jets were on a routine sortie when they hit bad weather in the mountainous area, which separates Kashmir valley from Ladakh in the state’s north.
“The two planes lost contact with ground (control) around 1 pm and the air force immediately mounted searches in Sonamarg,” a police officer here said.
The fate of the pilots in the second suspected Jaguar crash this year is unknown. The planes vanished on a day President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam visited Siachen.
An IAF officer in New Delhi told PTI that the missing Jaguars — which were used in the Kargil war for fast precision attacks and is said to be the primary platform for delivery of free-fall nuclear weapons — could not have strayed into Pakistani territory.
Officials suspect the deep-penetrating jets, which sources said were on a reconnaissance mission along with two other Jaguars, may have crashed over the mountain range as it was beyond their endurance capacity to stay airborne. Police sources quoted residents as saying they heard two blasts.
The search by the army and local police was called off this evening because of failing light and bad weather. It will be resumed early tomorrow.
The other two Jaguars returned safely. All four had taken off from Srinagar airport this afternoon, police sources said.
Following the trail of the crashing MIGs, a Jaguar had crashed in Pokhran on February 27 during an exercise.
Two others had crashed last year near the Ambala airbase, with the pilot of one ejecting to safety and that of the other dying. Two more were involved in a mid-air collision in 1999 during an exercise. A court of inquiry had later attributed it to pilot error.