A US-made C-130J military transport plane, one of the most modern aircraft acquired recently by the Indian Air Force, crashed on Friday near Gwalior, killing all the five crew members, including four officers.
The aircraft, procured at an estimated cost of Rs 965 crore a piece along with five others, crashed an hour after taking off from Agra airbase for an exercise, officials said.
The IAF ordered a court of inquiry to ascertain the cause of the mishap.
Those killed in the crash are the aircraft's Captain Wing Commander Prashant Joshi, Wing Commander Raji Nair, Squadron Leader Kaushik Mishra, Squadron Leader Ashish Yadav (Navigator) and Warrant Officer Krishnapal Singh (Flight Engineer), IAF officials said.
"One C-130J aircraft crashed 72 miles (115 km) west of Gwalior air base. The aircraft was airborne from Agra at 1000 hours for a routine flying training mission," an IAF spokesperson said in New Delhi.
Senior IAF officials said two C-130J Super Hercules aircraft had taken off together while taking part in a tactical exercise, which involved flying at very low heights, at 10 am but one of them crashed at around 11 am.
IAF sources said the aircraft, fitted with four Rolls Royce engines, could not even communicate about the emergency before it lost contact with ground control.
The 'Black Box' of the aircraft has been recovered and is being analysed to assess the reason for the crash.
The bodies were recovered from the debris by a rescue team of Airforce's Medical unit and taken back to airforce base by a flight, Karauli District Collector B L Jatawat told PTI over phone from the spot.
Quoting villagers, Jatawat said the plane probably hit some hillock and caught fire on the bank of Chambal river and ravine areas at Gotaghat.
The home base of the 77 squadron 'Veiled Vipers' operating the aircraft is Hindon in Ghaziabad and the families of all the victims of the fatal crash are also based there.
The aircraft, with the load carrying capacity of upto 20 tonnes, is fitted with emergency landing system equipment and can land and take-off from short runways.
India had recently inducted six C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, which were bought from the US at the cost of around Rs 5,781 crore three years ago. The per unit cost of the aircraft comes to around Rs 965 crore.
IAF had recently landed the aircraft at the high-altitude Daulat Beg Oldie air field near China border. The planes have augmented IAF's capability to airlift troops closer to the borders in times of emergency, air force officials said.
One of these multi-role special operations aircraft was recently deployed by India for the search operation of the missing Malaysian airliner MH 370.
Air Force chief Arup Raha, while noting that it was a modern aircraft inducted in 2010, promised a thorough inquiry into the mishap.
"It is very unfortunate that we have lost five of our brave warriors in a tragic accident today. It is a sad moment for all of us and we share the grief with the family members," he said in a statement.
"Events like these are painful reminders of the inherent risks which our brave airwarriors face in the execution of our daily mission," he added.
The IAF remains committed to provide the best possible equipment and training to its personnel so that they can execute their assigned missions professionally, said the chief who briefed Defence Minister A K Antony on the crash.
The defence ministry had recently signed a contract with the US government for procurement of six additional C-130J planes which are to be deployed in Panagarh in West Bengal.