A Sukhoi-30 MKI of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed about 70 km southeast of Jaisalmer on Thursday, killing a pilot and ending the Russia-acquired fighter jet’s 12-year-old safety record.
Wing commander P.S. Nara, the pilot who was killed, was reportedly not qualified to fly a Sukhoi, an IAF official told Hindustan Times.
A Sukhoi costs over Rs 200 crore.
The IAF has ordered an inquiry into the accident. A spokesperson said the IAF would not like to speculate on how the plane crashed and would wait for the probe to be over.
An IAF source said Nara was a competent MiG-21 flyer. While both pilots had ejected, wing commander S.V. Munje, the other pilot, survived the crash. Nara was serving in the IAF’s Directorate of Air Staff Inspection (DASI).
Nara was seated behind Munje, who was flying the twin-cockpit fighter aircraft. There are different functions to be carried out from each cockpit. It is presumed Nara was manning the jet’s weapons system. “Regardless of who flies the aircraft, all crew members have to be qualified on the aircraft they are flying,” said the source.
“DASI inspectors make assessments of fighter jets at the tactical and operational level to ascertain if they are capable of meeting war-time requirements,” said Air Marshal (retired) P.S. Ahluwalia. “Ideally, an inspector should be qualified on the type of aircraft he is assessing. But inspectors are sometimes co-opted due to the shortage of pilots.”