Indian Air Force grounds entire Soviet-era MiG-21 fleet amid probe after Rajasthan crash
The Indian Air Force has grounded its entire fleet of Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter warplanes in the wake of an air crash in western India’s Rajasthan killing three civilians present at the spot of the accident.
The measure taken by the air force is to carry out checks as per the standard protocol, officials said.
“As per the standard procedure, one-time checks are going on for which the fleet was grounded after the crash. Aircraft are back in the air as the checks progress,” an Air Force official said on Saturday, reported Indian daily The Hindu.
The customary checks of the entire fleet are expected to be completed very soon, the official added.
This comes two weeks after a MiG-21 Bison aircraft crashed in Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh village after taking off from Suratgarh air base.
It crashed while flying on a routine training sortie. The IAF pilot also suffered minor injuries in the crash, prompting the officials to launch an investigation into finding the exact cause behind the accident.
Grounding of aircraft fleet is a standard practice to carry out checks in the aftermath of an incident due to technical reasons.
At present the IAF has around 70 Mig-21 aircraft and 50 Mig-29 variants.
The first fleet of the MiG variant was inducted into the IAF in 1963.
In subsequent years, India procured over 700 variants of the aircraft but the country is now on the verge of phasing them out.
While it has been an integral part of the IAF’s fighter aircraft and has been a top choice for frontline fighter jet deployment, MiG-21 aircraft has also earned the nickname of “Flying Coffin” due to the high rate of accidents.
According to the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) data, at least 170 pilots have been killed in accidents involving the aircraft.
Since 2010 more than 20 aircraft have crashed and 38 aircraft crashed between 2003 and 2013.
Several inquiries have also been conducted into the poor safety record of the aircraft.
The Indian air force is now looking to introduce indigenous aircraft including the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mark 1A and LCA Mark 2 along with the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, reported NDTV.