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IAF MiG-29 crashes in Arabian Sea; pilot safe

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NEW DELHI (BNS): The Indian Air Force (IAF) lost a MiG-29 fighter jet when it crashed minutes after take off from Jamnagar airbase in Gujarat on Monday. This was the sixth IAF fighter jet to crash this year.

The aircraft, flown by Flight Lieutenant Dheer, took off from Jamnagar air base around 11.20 am on a routine training sortie. After flying barely 50 miles from the base, the pilot noticed some snag in the aircraft and ejected. The twin-engine fighter jet crashed in the Arabian Sea just away from the coast. Flt Lt Dheer managed to land safely.

The IAF has started investigations into the accident. Officials are still ascertaining to what caused the pilot to lose control of the aircraft. Since the fighter jet had two engines, it was possible to land back safely at the base with even single engine operating. It is highly unlikely that both the engines developed snag, the officials said.

Preliminary inquiry suggests that the aircraft might have been hit by a bird. But the air headquarters sources said it was too early to confirm or deny if it was a case of bird hit. The IAF probe team is trying to recover the digital flight data recorder (DFDR), which has fallen in the sea along with the aircraft debris. Navy's divers are helping in collecting the debris and the crucial DFDR from the crash site.

The IAF has claimed that its crash record has improved in the recent years. But this was the sixth crash this year. Among the aircraft that went down this year, include a MiG-27, two MiG-21s, a Hawk Advanced Jet trainer and a Kiran trainer. The aircraft, belonging to IAF's 28 squadron, is part of the fleet of MiG-29 which is being upgraded.

The new MiG-29s would be fitted with a state of the art avionics suit. It would be similar to what is used in the naval version of the aircraft. After the retrofitting the life span of the aircraft was expected to go up by another 30 years.

The Ministry of Defence signed a contract with Russia for the upgradation of MiG-29 fleet in March this year. The retrofitted aircraft were expected to be more potent with new guided missiles for ground and sea targets and smart aerial bombs.

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