Pilot missing for 2 days after MiG-29K crash, navy intensifies search ops
Search and rescue teams of the Indian Navy on Saturday continued with their efforts to locate a pilot who went missing after a MiG-29K trainer aircraft crashed into the Arabian Sea two days ago but the teams failed to make any headway, officials familiar with developments said on Saturday.
The Russian-origin twin-seat trainer jet went down off India’s west coast on Thursday after taking off from the deck of India’s only aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. While rescue teams were able to recover one of the pilots on Thursday, the second pilot - identified by the navy as Commander Nishant Singh - is still not traceable.
“Additional warships, planes and helicopters were pressed into action on Saturday to intensify the search. There’s been no luck yet,” the officials said.
Thursday’s crash was the fourth accident involving the MiG-29K maritime fighter fleet.
While the cause of the crash is not known yet, India’s top auditor had in 2016 found deficiencies in the deck-based fighter. These included engine trouble, airframe problems and shortcomings in its fly-by-wire system.
Meanwhile, a witty letter written by the missing pilot to his commanding officer on his decision to get married that had gone viral earlier this year surfaced again on social media after the news of the crash broke.
Singh wrote to his CO, “I regret to be dropping this bomb on you at such a short notice, but as you would agree, I intend to drop a nuclear one on myself and I realise that just like all the split-second decisions we take up in the air in the heat of combat, I cannot afford to allow myself the luxury of time to re-evaluate my decision.”
The letter written by the accomplished naval aviator on May 9 was widely circulated on social media platforms. The letter was peppered with military parlance.
Referring to the courtship period, Singh wrote that on the successful completion of three years of extensive SCTT (Survivability and Compatibility Testing Trials), he and his fiancée had come to a mutual agreement that they may be able to get through the rest of their lives without killing each other.
“I officially seek your approval to willingly sacrifice myself in absolute peacetime, completely outside of the line of duty and follow you and many other brave men into this graveyard spiral of matrimony,” he wrote.
The navy commissioned its first squadron of MiG-29K fighters at Goa in May 2013, ahead of the induction of INS Vikramaditya.
India has so far bought 45 MiG-29K fighters from Russia. The navy also plans to deploy the fighters on the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being built at the state-owned Cochin Shipyard.
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