A MiG-21 fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed near Barmer in Rajasthan on Thursday, 28 July. Both pilots on board the twin-seater plane, which was on a training sortie, lost their lives, the IAF said.
The two deceased pilots have been identified as Wing Commander M Rana from Mandi, Himachal Pradesh and Flight Lieutenant Advitiya Bal from Jammu.
"A twin seater MiG-21 trainer aircraft of the IAF was airborne for a training sortie from Utarlai air base in Rajasthan this evening," the IAF said in a statement on Thursday night.
"At 9:10 pm this evening, an IAF MiG 21 trainer aircraft met with an accident in the western sector during a training sortie. Both pilots sustained fatal injuries."Indian Air Force
"IAF deeply regrets the loss of lives and stands firmly with the bereaved families. A court of Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident," the statement added.
Nicknamed 'the flying coffin,' the MiG-21 aircraft has a poor safety record.
Who Were The Pilots?
An alumnus of Sainik School Nagrota, he later joined the National Defence Academy (NDA). His father, Swarn Lal is also a former Indian Army officer.
Wing Commander M Rana, who was a resident of Sandhol in Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh, was killed along with Bal. Rana's father Ramprakash retired from the Army as a colonel. His family, currently living in Chandigarh, is likely to perform his last rites in Chandigarh itself.
'Deeply Anguished': Defence Minister Rajnath Singh
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari following the crash on Thursday night.
Singh took to Twitter to express his condolences and said that he was "deeply anguished by the loss of two Air Warriors." "Their service to the nation will never be forgotten. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of sadness," he added.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot wrote on Twitter, "Deeply saddened to know two IAF pilots have lost their lives in the line of duty when an IAF MiG 21 trainer aircraft met with an accident in Barmer. My heartfelt condolences to bereaved families. May they remain strong to bear this loss. We stand with them and share their grief."
"Very sad news! Mother India lost two of her brave soldiers. May god give peace to their souls and strength to the bereaved families in this time of grief," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.
Union Minister Piyush Goyal and the Congress party also tweeted their condolences to the families of the deceased.
In March, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhat had stated in the Rajya Sabha that 42 defence personnel were killed in accidents involving aircraft and helicopters of the three services in the last five years.
The total number of air accidents in the last five years was 45, out of which 29 involved IAF's platforms.
The MiG-21s, Soviet-origin jets first introduced by the air force in 1963 to increase its combat ability during the Cold War, have gained the reputation of being a "widow maker" or "flying coffin" over the years due to their accident-prone nature.