IAF Sukhoi Su-30MKI crashes at Pokhran range. Fourth crash of frontline fighter. Crew safe.

IAF Su-30MKI in a flypast at AeroIndia 2011

A Su-30MKI air superiority fighter of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed at Pokharan range, Rajasthan, earlier today around 1920 IST (1350Z). Both the crew ejected safely and there is no damage reported to any civilian property of any casualties on the ground. A spokesperson for the IAF could not divulge details of the fighter, the squadron it belonged to, or details of the crew members.

This is the fourth crash of the front-line air superiority fighter of the IAF. The first crash of a Su-30MKI occurred in 2009, again over the desert of Rajasthan in 2009. Later that year another SU-30MKI crashed, again in Rajasthan. The third crash occurred in 2011 at Pune.

Sources inform Bangalore Aviation, the crash occurred during the full dress rehearsal for Iron Fist, a massive day and night fire power exercise of Indian Air Force at the Pokhran range, to demonstrate its integrated combat capabilities.

Eyewitnesses say the fighter, which was “fairly high, may be around 7,000ft”, released flares, a standard procedure during night exercises, followed by the firing of a missile from the aircraft. Soon after the launch, the Su-30MKI caught fire mid-air, and the crew ejected. The aircraft broke in to two major pieces before crashing to the earth in two balls of fire.

Apart from marking the debut of the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, the ‘Iron Fist’ exercise will feature over 100 aircraft from across the IAF including the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000, Jaguar, MiG 27, MiG 21, MiG 29, various helicopters, UAVs, and AWACS and early warning platforms.

The exercise is to be witnessed on February 22, by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal N.A.C. Browne, senior officials from across the government and armed forces, military attaches of various countries and the national media. At this time, it is not known whether the exercise will proceed, but we speculate that it will.

As per Wikipedia the Indian Air Force bases with the Su-30MKI are:

  • Bareilly AFS: 15 Wing’s 8 Squadron (Sqn) Eight Pursoots and 24 Hunting Hawks
  • Bhatinda AFS: 34 Wing – 17 Sqn. Golden Arrows
  • Chabua AFS: 14 Wing – 102 Sqn. Trisonics
  • Halwara AFS: 34 Wing – 220 Sqn. Desert Tigers
  • Jodhpur AFS: 32 Wing – 31 Sqn. Lions
  • Pune (Lohegaon) AFS: 2 Wing – 20 Sqn. Lightning and 30 Sqn. Rhinos
  • Tezpur AFS: 11 Wing – 2 Sqn. Winged Arrows

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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