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MiG-21 crashes in Punjab, pilot safe

Rajpura (Punjab): The Indian Air Force (IAF) Tuesday lost another MiG-21 combat aircraft in a crash near Rajpura town in Punjab’s Patiala district. The young pilot, who was on a routine training sortie, bailed out to safety before the crash.

“A MiG-21 Bison crashed about 10 km from the Ambala airbase (in Haryana) from where it had got airborne. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant A. Ghosh, ejected out of the plane safely,” an IAF spokesperson said in New Delhi.

“The crash took place when the aircraft was on an approach south of Ambala. The pilot was on a routine training sortie,” he added.

The plane crashed on agricultural land near the Shumbu barrier, 10 km from Rajpura town, Rajpura Superintendent of Police Manmohan Sharma told IANS.

“No loss of life was reported on the ground. Air force, district administration and police officials have reached the spot and cordoned off the area,” he said.

The crash site, about 50 km from state capital Chandigarh, is close to the busy National Highway No.1 between Delhi and Amritsar.

On Aug 2, the IAF had lost one of its pilots in a MiG-21 crash near Bikaner in Rajasthan.
Only last week, the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Normal Anil Kumar Browne, had said that beginning December, only experienced pilots will fly the Soviet-era MiG-21s, which have a poor safety record.

The MiG-21s, which the IAF first bought in 1961 and has operated over 400 of them in its fleet for over 40 years, have earned the sobriquet “flying coffins” after over 100 planes were lost in crashes between 1993 and 2002. India plans to retire the over 100 MiG-21s presently in its fleet by 2017.

Before the phase out, the IAF would begin inducting 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft for which a $10.4-billion tender is likely to be finalised before March 2012.

The IAF has been persisting with the supersonic MiG-21 for long to train its rookie pilots as it did not have a better medium-powered plane between the HJT-16 Kirans and more sophisticated aircraft like the Jaguar, the Mirage-2000 and the Sukhoi SU-30MKI. That gap was filled with the IAF buying the Hawk advanced jet trainer in 2004, with deliveries beginning in early 2008.

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