Balakot hero ejects safely as MiG-21 jet goes down in MP

The air strikes against the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror base were India’s response to the Pulwama suicide car bomb attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force men were killed on February 14.
Policemen and locals gather at the site where MiG-21 trainer jet crashed near the Gwalior airbase on Wednesday.(PTI)
Policemen and locals gather at the site where MiG-21 trainer jet crashed near the Gwalior airbase on Wednesday.(PTI)
Updated on Sep 26, 2019 12:32 AM IST
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New Delhi | ByRahul Singh

Had Group Captain Yeshpal Singh Negi not been piloting the MiG-21 fighter jet that crashed near Gwalior on Wednesday, the accident would have gone down as a statistic in the Indian Air Force’s safety record.

But Negi is no ordinary fighter pilot. He was involved in the planning of the cross-border air strikes against a terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26, said two top IAF officers on the condition of anonymity.

The air strikes against the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror base were India’s response to the Pulwama suicide car bomb attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force men were killed on February 14. Negi was decorated with Yudh Seva Medal on Independence Day for his role in planning the Balakot operation.

“He was the man who planned the Balakot air strikes as leader of the Command Air Tasking and Strike Planning for Aerial Warfare at the New Delhi-based Headquarters Western Air Command. He has an impeccable service record,” said one of the officers cited above.

Negi was on one of the two pilots flying the MiG-21 Type-69 trainer aircraft that crashed six nautical miles short of the Gwalior air base on Wednesday, said the second officer.

He is currently the commandant of the elite Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment.

“The aircraft was on a routine mission. Both pilots ejected safely and were picked up by a rescue helicopter. A court of inquiry has been ordered to investigate the cause of accident,” the air force said.

The IAF’s Mirages had hit three targets in Balakot with five Israeli-origin Spice 2000 bombs with penetrator warheads that allowed them to pierce through the rooftops before exploding inside to cause maximum damage.

Military tensions between India and Pakistan escalated following the Balakot strikes, with Pakistan Air Force fighters, including F-16s, making a failed attempt to bomb Indian military installations on February 27.

Both air forces lost one fighter plane each in the aerial engagement, with IAF’s Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman ending up in Pakistani custody after his MiG-21 Bison crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. He was returned to India on March 1.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2021