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Suspected bird-hit downs MiG-21 Bison

Third mishap involving Indian Air Force's ageing MiG fleet in one year
Policemen and officials stand near the remains of the MiG-21 Bison fighter jet after it crashed near Bikaner on Friday.

Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 08.03.19, 09:19 PM

A MiG-21 Bison fighter of the Indian Air Force crashed after it reportedly suffered a bird hit in Bikaner’s Shobhasar Ki Dhani area on Friday.

The pilot managed to eject safely before it crashed. The IAF has ordered a court of inquiry into the crash.

“Today afternoon, a MiG-21 aircraft on a routine mission crashed after getting airborne from Nal near Bikaner. Pilot of the aircraft ejected safely. Initial inputs suggest a bird hit,” said a defence ministry statement.

Sources in the air force said the MiG-21 had taken off from the IAF’s Nal airbase in Rajasthan.

The MiG-21 has been in the news recently after it was shot down by the Pakistani army in the aerial engagement on February 27. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was flying the jet, ejected safely and his parachute drifted into Pakistan-occupied Pakistan where he was taken into custody. He was released on March 1.

In recent times, the IAF has witnessed a series of crashes involving fighter jets and choppers. Friday’s was the third mishap involving its ageing MiG fleet in one year.

On February 27, an Mi-17 helicopter of the Indian Air Force had crashed at Budgam in Kashmir. All six IAF personnel on board and a civilian were killed.

The wing commander’s capture by the Pakistan army on the same day had overshadowed the tragic incident of the six IAF officers meeting their end on the same morning in central Kashmir’s Budgam district. A court of inquiry is underway to ascertain the reason behind the crash.

On February 1, a Mirage 2000 fighter jet had crashed during a routine testing flight. Both the pilots in the jet had died after their safety equipment gave way. The pilots were on an “acceptance sortie” of the Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft after it was overhauled by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

Barely a fortnight later, two Surya Kiran Hawks were involved in a collision that led to the death of one pilot. The crash had taken place a few days before the 12the edition of the Aero India show.

On February 12, a MiG-27 fighter jet had crashed at the Pokhran firing range after taking off from the Jaisalmer air base. The jet was on a training mission and the pilot managed to eject safely from the jet before it crashed.

In September last year, a MiG-27 fighter aircraft had crashed in Deolia Kalan village in Jodhpur. The pilot avoided residential colonies and the jet crashed in an open field, averting a tragedy. The Russian MiG-27 are in the process of being phased out from service.

An IAF officer said that over the past few years, the air force had been grappling with rising incidents of accidents involving its aircraft. As many as 25 accidents involving IAF aircraft were reported between 2015-16 and last year in which 39 people died. The air force lost all the aircraft involved in the crashes.

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