An Indian Air Force pilot was killed in a MiG-21 Bison aircraft accident Wednesday (March 17) morning, the IAF said in a statement. A court of inquiry has been ordered to determine the cause of the accident, it added.
The pilot has been identified as Group Captain A Gupta. The accident took place when the aircraft was taking off for a combat training mission at an airbase.
“IAF expresses deep condolences and stands firmly with the family members. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered to determine the cause of the accident,” the statement added.
Since 1963, India has introduced more than 1,200 MiG fighters into its air force. As of 2019, 113 MiG-21s are estimated to be in IAF arsenal. Safety problems have frequently been reported in the fighter plane. As per an estimate, since 1970 over 170 Indian pilots and 40 civilians have died in accidents.
The causes of accidents are stated to be both human errors and technical snags. According to Rajya Sabha, over the past 40 years, India has lost more than half of its MiG combat fleet of 872 aircraft.
In 2019 June, the Defence Ministry told Parliament that 27 IAF aircraft have crashed since 2016. In the 2016-17, six IAF fighter jets, two helicopters, one transport aircraft and one trainer crashed. In 2017-18, the force lost two fighters and one trainer in crashes.
This number rose in 2018-19 when the IAF lost seven fighters, two helicopters and two trainers.
In 2019, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman flew an MiG-21 Bison and shot down a much superior F-16 of Pakistan Air Force before his fighter was downed in the dogfight. Varthman was held captive by Pakistan before his release within days. He was conferred Vir Chakra gallantry award.