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IAF's MiG-21 goes down in Assam, pilots safe

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Experts from Indian Air Force collecting samples following the crash of a MIG-21 trainee fighter aircraft into a paddy field at Gariapathar in Sivasagar district of Assam on Wednesday. PTI Photo

NEW DELHI (BNS): A MiG-21 fighter jet of the Indian Air Force crashed in upper Assam's Sibsagar but its two pilots managed to bail out safely.

Air headquarters claimed the fighter jet, flown by squadron leader Swapandeep and Flying officer Nandagopan was on a training sortie. The accident occurred just three minutes after the aircraft took off from the Chabua airbase in Dibrugarh district and went down over Mathurapur near Gariapathar around 10.45 this morning.
The IAF has ordered an inquiry into the causes of the mishap. However, sources claimed that the aircraft's engines had flamed out which resulted in the crash.
It was a trainer version of the Mig-21, the oldest aircraft in the IAF inventory. The Russian origin aircraft has earned a bad name for itself after frequent crashes leading to deaths of many young pilots.

The IAF has brought out an improved version of MiG-21 which is known as MiG-21 Bison. The aircraft that crashed today was MiG-21 Type 69. Around 150 Bisons have been deployed in operational squadrons. The MiG-21s form the backbone of IAF's lethal power.

Though air headquarters claim that flight safety record of IAF has increased significantly in recent times, this was sixth crash this year. Three of the crashes this year involved MiG 21s one going down in Bhuj on western frontier and the other in Bagdogra in east. The IAF had lost a MiG-27 in Hashimara at the start of this year. In the middle of the year, newly bought Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer crashed at Bidar followed by piston engine powered HPT Kiran trainer getting down.

Both the pilots of MiG-21 have been admitted at air force hospital in Jorhat. IAF officials claimed they were out of danger. The IAF has MiG Operational Flying Training Unit in Tezpur where rookie pilots learn to handle supersonic jets. It is the most critical part of the training of fighter pilots as MiG-21 is the most difficult aircraft to handle in the early stages of flying career.

IAF has only recently started training on Advanced Jet Trainers before sending rookie pilots for advanced training on real jets. MiG-21s were involved in so many accidents that were tagged as "flying coffins" by critics. The IAF always maintained that these aircrafts are superior and continue to maitain that they are among the best. But the aircraft has reached its last leg of life and IAF is looking for a replacement. India's indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ia said to be one of the replacement and the other option is the induction of 126 Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA).

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