IAF pilot killed as MiG-21 crashes in Rajasthan
Flight Lieutenant Shekar Kulshreshta became the latest victim of the MiG-21 Bison, one of India’s oldest fighter aircraft, which crashed at Uttarlai airbase in Rajasthan’s Barmer district on Monday. Shekar, 26, was from Noida near Delhi.
The aircraft had taken off from the Indian Air Force (IAF) airbase on Monday morning for a routine training sortie and crashed while landing at the runway, officials said. The accident occured around 9:30 am.
Defence Ministry spokesperson in Jodhpur, Colonel S D Goswami said the IAF has ordered a court of inquiry to ascertain the cause for the crash. There was no reported loss to civilian life or property, he said.
This is the second MiG-21 crash in this year. Last month, a MiG-21 from the same airbase had crashed but the pilots had managed to eject safely. MiG-21 planes are in service for over 40 years now and they are expected to continue flying till 2018-19 in view of the delays in the induction of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft “Tejas” by the DRDO. The IAF had inducted over 900 Russian-made MiG-21s in its fleet over a period of 40 years, half of which have been lost in different crashes. This is the sixth crash involving an IAF aircraft and fifth of a fighter plane in 2013.
In the last three years, the IAF has lost 31 fighter planes, including 14 MiG-21 fighters, eight MiG-27s, four Su-30MKi planes, two each Jaguars and Mirage 200 and one MiG-29.
Out of the seven pilots who died in these accidents, six lost their lives with the crash of MiG-21 planes. Altogether, six civilians have lost their lives and 39 civilian properties were damaged, according to defence ministry records.