Two IAF pilots killed in Mirage 2000 jet crash
Two pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were killed on Friday after their Mirage 2000 fighter jet crashed during takeoff at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) airport here.
The French-origin trainer aircraft, manufactured by Dassault Aviation, was on an acceptance sortie after being upgraded at HAL, an IAF spokesperson said in New Delhi. IAF has ordered a probe into the accident that comes four days after a Jaguar aircraft went down in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh.
First inducted into IAF in 1984, Friday’s crash was the 11th accident involving the Mirage 2000 fleet. The IAF is now left with 48 Mirage 2000 fighters.
HAL identified the two pilots as squadron leaders Samir Abrol and Siddartha Negi.
Commissioned into IAF in June 2008, Abrol, 33, was from Ghaziabad. Negi, 31, hailed from Dehradun and joined IAF in June 2009.
“HAL regrets to inform that one upgraded Mirage 2000 aircraft crashed during the customer acceptance flight at HAL airport here today [Friday] around 10.30 am,” the state-owned plane maker said in a statement.
Officials said that the pilots had ejected from the plane but landed on its wreckage.
Minutes after the crash, residents from nearby areas posted videos and images of the accident site on social media. The flight data recorder has been recovered from the site.
India had in 2011 signed a $2.4-billion contract with Dassault Aviation and Thales to upgrade 51 Mirage 2000 fighters with new weapons, radars and avionics. The first two aircraft were upgraded by the firms in France followed by another two at HAL in Bengaluru. HAL is upgrading the remaining planes.
The fighter that crashed was upgraded at HAL, said an official who did not want to be identified.
The crash couldn’t have come at a worse time for HAL, as questions have been raised about the capabilities of the state-owned company that is going through financial trouble.
Several HAL projects are running years behind schedule, including the Mirage 2000 upgrade programme, much to IAF’s dismay.
The Mirage 2000 upgrade is five years behind schedule.
IAF’s efforts to support HAL have affected its fighting capabilities, air force chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said on Thursday. Speaking at a conference at the Centre for Air Power Studies in New Delhi, he was responding to criticism about IAF’s alleged dislike for the HAL-made Tejas light combat aircraft.
Since Independence, 17 test pilots and engineers have lost their lives in air accidents during the testing and evaluation of indigenous planes such as Marut, Kiran, Ajeet, Saras and AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) prototype aircraft.