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IAF grounds fleet as another Mirage crashes, pilots safe

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Indian Air Force Mirage 2000.

JAIPUR/NEW DELHI (PTI): A Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft Monday crashed in Rajasthan's Sawai Madhopur district and its two pilots ejected safely -- the second mishap involving the aircraft type in 11 days which prompted the IAF to stop flying the entire fleet and subject it to preliminary checks.

The accident occured soon after the twin-seater aircraft took off from an airbase in Gwalior. The crash took place at 1254 hours near Baman Baas village, 100 kilometres south-west of Jaipur, a defence spokesperson said.

This is the second Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft to crash since February 24.

"Preliminary checks have been ordered to check the aircraft and all its systems. The fleet of Mirage-2000 will start flying after the checks are over," IAF officials said in Delhi.

The defence spokesperson said in Jaipur, "The pilots, Squadron Leader Raj and Flight Lieutenant Kanav, who got airborne from Gwalior airbase for routine flying sortie, ejected safely."

He said, "There is no reported damage to the life or civilian property." Soon after the mishap, IAF and Army teams reached the site of the accident and the pilots were attended to for injuries, he said.

A court of inquiry (CoI) has been ordered to ascertain the reason for the crash, the spokesperson said, adding that material from the accident site was being collected for the probe.

Superintendent of Police, Sawai Madhopur, Anshuman Singh said a police party was at the crash spot which was located in a hilly area.

This is the third crash involving an IAF aircraft this year.

A Kiran MK II trainer plane had crashed in Chennai on January 30.

The second crash involving a Mirage-2000 aircraft took place on February 24 near Bhind in Madhya Pradesh. The aircraft was being flown by Air Marshal Anil Chopra and Wing Commander Ram Kumar who had got airborne from Gwalior airbase for a routine flying mission at 1201 hours.

Within five minutes of taking off, the aircraft developed a technical snag and crashed in a forested area. The two pilots had ejected safely and a CoI was ordered to ascertain the reason for the accident.

Monday's mishap is the eighth crash of a fighter aircraft in this financial year. Most of the other accidents involved the MiG-21 series aircraft.

After the losses, the Air Force has 49 Mirage aircraft which are based in Maharajpura airbase in Gwalior.

These aircraft started getting inducted into the IAF in the mid-80s and have had a generally good flight safety record, the officials said.

The IAF has also recently signed two deals worth over $3.2 billion for upgrading the capabilities of the Mirage 2000 with French companies Dassault, Thales and MBDA.

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