The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mirage crash jinx

New Delhi, Nov. 9: A Mirage 2000 multi-role fighter caught fire and crashed in the forests near Gwalior in the fourth mishap involving the French-designed aircraft in two months, but the pilot bailed out.

The fighter took off from its Gwalior base at 8.40 pm on a routine sortie and crashed 20 minutes later at Barsota, about 75 km away, district collector Rakesh Srivastava said.

Pilot Gururani ejected safely and efforts are on to rescue him, he added.

The Mirage 2000 was touted as one of the IAF's most reliable fighters and till this year had recorded only five crashes since their induction in 1985. The air force has two squadrons of the single-engine fighters, both based in Gwalior.

On September 23, a Mirage lost its nose wheel in mid-air and the pilot was ordered to eject.

The aircraft was directed away from human settlements and crashed in the ranges near the IAF's airbase.

On October 12, during showpiece bilateral exercises with the Singapore Air Force's F-16s, a Mirage 2000 trainer crashed.

A few days earlier, on October 3, a Mirage 2000 fighter returning from multinational exercises in South Africa landed on its belly during an airshow in Mauritius.

A technical team of the French Dassault Aviation, the original suppliers, was in Gwalior last month to study maintenance issues and upgradation. The Mirage 2000s are being made capable of delivering nuclear payloads.

The Mirage 2000s are slated to replace the ageing MiG-21 aircraft as the mainstay of the fighter fleet.

The spurt in accidents comes at a time when the IAF is pushing for replacement of the MiG-21 air defence aircraft ' dubbed the 'Flying Coffin' for its crash frequency ' by multi-role fighters like the Mirage 2000.

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