Pilot killed in IAF MiG-21 crash

Srinagar/New Delhi


An Indian Air Force pilot was killed Tuesday when his MiG-21 fighter crashed in Anantnag district in Jammu and Kashmir, the IAF said.

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, who took charge earlier in the day, said he was "extremely sorry" to learn about the accident and called it a "matter of great concern".

An IAF statement said the MiG-21 (Bis) crashed about 10 km short of the Awantipur air base at around 10.45 a.m.

"The pilot from Srinagar was on a routine training sortie," the statement said.

Local officials said the pilot's body had been recovered. A police officer identified him as Squadron Leader Raghu Bansi.

"His body has been ... airlifted to the IAF field station. Army, IAF and police teams are at the crash site. The debris of the aircraft are being removed by IAF personnel," the official said.

Jaitley said in New Delhi: "It is a matter of great concern. My heart goes out to the pilot who lost his life."

The IAF has ordered a court of inquiry.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, expressing grief at the accident, said the new central government needed address the issue of defence procurement at the earliest.

"Not entirely disconnected from today's crash the new government needs to sort (out) defence procurement issue for Navy, Air Force & Army ASAP," Abdullah said on twitter.

He also expressed grief over the death of the pilot and condoled his family, friends and colleagues.

The Russian-made MiG 21 (Bis) of the type that crashed Tuesday was the IAF's first supersonic fighter ans completed 50 years in service April 2013.

Despite several accidents in past, the MiG-21 is likely to remain operational in its upgraded version until 2019 - two years later than they were originally scheduled to be decommissioned.

Sameer Patil, associate national security fellow at thinktank Gateway House, said: "There is need to focus on the aging fleet."

"The crash of an MiG-21 jet in Jammu & Kashmir's Anantnag district on May 27 morning is a stark reminder to India's new government about the need to address the problem of an ageing fleet and depleting combat strength of the Indian Air Force," said Patil.

"The new defence minister needs to streamline defence acquisitions and expedite long standing proposals so that the phase-out of other platforms is not delayed and the IAF's operational preparedness is not affected," he added.- IANS