The Indian Air Force has lost nearly 10 aircraft this year, the latest being an AN-32, whose wreckage was spotted on Tuesday in a heavily- forested mountainous terrain in Arunachal Pradesh, eight days after it went missing after taking off from Assam's Jorhat. From Mirage 2000 to MiG-27, many of these aircraft had crashed in the month of February, officials said. In January, a Jaguar aircraft of the Indian Air Force had crashed in Uttar Pradesh's Kushinagar district, with the pilot ejecting safely, local police had said.
The military aircraft had crashed soon after taking off on a routine mission from the Gorakhpur Air Force Station. District magistrate Anil Kumar Singh had then said, the incident took place around noon time when the pilot had sensed some problem in the plane and turned it towards a safe destination before jumping to safety.
On February 19, a pilot was killed and two others had ejected to safety when two aircraft of IAF's aerobatic team Surya Kiran crashed near the Yelahanka airbase in Bengaluru, a day before the opening of the Aero India show. The two Hawk aeroplanes had collided mid-air and crashed, killing Wg Cdr Sahil Gandhi and injuring Wg Cdr V T Shelke and Sqn Ldr T J Singh.
Earlier in February, a Mirage 2000 aircraft of the IAF had crashed at the HAL airport in Bengaluru killing a pilot on the spot and leaving another critically injured, police had said. The HAL, in a statement, had said the incident occurred at 10.30 am during a sortie. In the same month, a MIG-27 fighter aircraft of IAF had crashed in Eta village in Pokaran tehsil of Rajasthan's Jaisalmer district, a defence official had said.
"A MIG-27 aircraft airborne from Jaisalmer crashed during a routine mission today evening. Pilot ejected safely. A Court of Inquiry will investigate the cause of the accident," defence spokesperson Col Sombit Ghosh had said after the incident. A MiG-21 Bison of the IAF, piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was downed during a dogfight between India and Pakistan sides on February 27 after the Balakot airstrike.
Also, on February 27, a Mi-17 helicopter had crashed in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir, killing at least one person. The jet had crashed in an open field near Garend Kalaan village in Budgam at 10.05 am, the officials had said. Sources late May had said, a court of inquiry (CoI) was also probing whether the helicopter crashed after being accidentally hit by the IAF's air defence system, which was on highest alert following the Balakot strikes.
In March, the IAF lost two aircraft in separate crash incidents. A MiG-27 aircraft had crashed late March near Jodhpur in Rajasthan but the pilot ejected safely, official sources had said. The jet had taken off from Utarlai airforce base and it experienced engine problems leading to the crash around 11:45 am in Sirohi district about 120 km south of Jodhpur, they said. Early March, a MiG-21 fighter aircraft of the IAF had crashed in Rajasthan's Bikaner district with the pilot ejecting safely, a defence ministry spokesperson had said.
The aircraft was on a routine mission and crashed after getting airborne from the Nal airbase near Bikaner. The latest in the string of loss this year for the IAF is the Russian-origin transport aircraft AN-32 that was going from Jorhat in Assam to Menchuka advanced landing ground near the border with China on June 3 when it lost contact with ground staff at 1 pm, within 33 minutes of taking off.
The IAF launched a massive operation to trace the missing aircraft but the search was badly hit due to poor weather conditions. "The wreckage of the aircraft was spotted today 16 km north of Lipo, north east of Tato at an approximate elevation of 12,000 feet by an IAF Mi-17 helicopter undertaking search in the expanded search zone," the IAF said in a statement.