An Indian Air Force (IAF) plane crashed in Madhya Pradesh's Bhind district on Thursday morning, officials said.
"An IAF Mirage 2000 aircraft experienced a technical malfunction during a training sortie in the central sector this morning. The pilot ejected safely. An inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident," the IAF said in a tweet.
The pilot ejected safely before the aircraft crashed in Mankabagh village of the district, Bhind Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Singh told PTI. The plane caught fire after the crash, he said, adding that the pilot was rescued.
The aircraft had taken off from the Maharajpura airbase at Gwalior in the morning, the official said. Bhind district administration and IAF officials reached the spot soon after getting information about the crash.
Mirage 2000 is one of the IAF’s deadliest and most versatile aircraft. It was first commissioned in 1985 and played a decisive role in the 1999 Kargil War and several subsequent IAF operations. The IAF gave the aircraft the name ‘Vajra’, meaning lightning, soon after its induction into the force.
Mirage 2000 has nine points for carrying weapon system payloads, five on the fuselage and two on each wing. The single-seat version is also armed with two internally mounted, high-firing-rate 30mm guns.
Air-to-air weapons supported by the Mirage 2000 include the MICA multitarget air-to-air intercept and combat missiles, and the Magic 2 combat missiles, both from MBDA (formed out of a merger between Matra BAe Dynamics, EADS Aerospatiale and Alenia Marconi Systems). MICA supports a maximum operating range of 60 kilometres. The aircraft can carry four MICA missiles, two Magic missiles and three drop tanks simultaneously. The Mirage 2000-5 can fire the MBDA Super 530D missile or the MBDA Sky Flash air-to-air missile as an alternative to the MICA missile.
But one of India's most reliable crafts is now battle-weary. The French Air Force has fully phased out Mirage 2000s in favour of the Rafale and will inadvertently stop production of compatible spare parts too. But India currently has a fleet of 50 Mirages still in service.
India has been stocking up on spares by purchasing them while they are still available and also buying phased out aircraft from the French company to keep up a supply of replacement gear for prolonging the lifespan of the fleet.
The latest contract to acquire phased out Mirage 2000 from France was signed as recently as in August-September this year. ANI reported that none of these aircraft would be used for flying, but will only be used to improve the spares and airframe capability to help improve the serviceability of the around 50 Mirage-2000s in the Indian fleet.
But the upgrade process is slow. Nearly half the Mirage fleet in India has gone through an extensive upgrade, increasing the aircraft’s life-cycle, while the remaining half are expected to be fitted up soon so as to prolong the fleet's serviceable years by another decade or so.
With inputs from PTI