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Mirage, Sukhoi collide in MP, instructor killed

The Times of India logo The Times of India 29-01-2023
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NEW DELHI/BHOPAL: In a relatively rare accident, two frontline IAF fighters crashed after a mid-air collision over Morena district of Madhya Pradesh on Saturday, killing a Wing Commander while two other pilots managed to eject safely.

The ill-fated Sukhoi-30MKI and Mirage-2000 fighters were practising combat manoeuvres, including bombing missions as part of the syllabus of the IAF’s ‘Top Gun’ school called Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE) at Gwalior, when the accident occurred around 5.30am.


The Mirage-2000 pilot, Wing Commander Hanumanth Rao Sarathi, who as an instructor at TACDE was tasked to train the cream of younger fighter pilots in advanced air combat skills, lost his life in the mishap.

The pilots of the twinseat Sukhoi-30MKI, both Squadron Leaders, sustained minor injuries after ejecting from their jet and are now admitted in a military hospital.


Though military aviation is inherently dangerous with flying machines being stretched to their very limits, the Indian armed forces have been dogged by an unusually high crash rate over the years. Over 50 military personnel, for instance, have lost their lives in aircraft and helicopter accidents in just the last five years.

The IAF has ordered a court of inquiry into the accident on Saturday to establish the exact cause behind it. Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari briefed defence minister Rajnath Singh about the details. “We stand by Wing Commander Sarathi’s family in this difficult hour,” Singh said.

Both the fighters had taken off from the Gwalior airbase, along with other aircraft, for the routine operational flying training mission.

“While it was not a head-on collision, the wings of the two jets seemed to have clipped each other,” an official said. “It is difficult to say at this time whether it was technical snag in one of the fighters, or a bird-hit or some other factor that caused the jets to veer into each other. The CoI, with the analysis of the flight data recorders concerned, will look into it.”

The Mirage-2000 went down almost immediately in the Pahargarh area of Morena district, with Wing Commander Sarathi getting no time to react. The two Sukhoi-30MKI pilots ejected a few minutes later over the adjoining district of Bharatpur in Rajasthan after losing control of their fighter.

Officials said no civilians were injured and neither was any property damaged on the ground. Villagers in Pahargarh and Pingora (Bharatpur) said the doors and windows of their houses were rattled by the explosions. At Pahargarh, villagers said they were shaken by a deafening explosion when the plane went down near a temple in a forest area.

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