An Indian Air Force Jaguar fighter jet crashed in Gujarat’s Kutch district soon after it took off from the Jamnagar air base on Tuesday, killing a senior officer who was piloting the aircraft, a defence spokesperson said.
Air Commodore Sanjai Chauhan, a recipient of the Vayu Sena Medal and the Air Officer Commanding of Jamnagar Air Force Station, who was flying the deep penetration Jaguar fighter jet, died when the plane crashed in a field in Bareja village.
The jet was on a routine training mission when it crashed.
Chauhan, commissioned in fighter stream of the IAF on December 16, 1989, was a Qualified Flying Instructor and Experimental Test Pilot with over 3,800 hours of service flying, officials said.
“The Jaguar aircraft, on a routine training mission from Jamnagar, crashed around 10.30 am near Bareja village,” said defence spokesperson Lt Col Manish Ojha.
“Air Commodore Sanjai Chauhan sustained fatal injuries in the crash,” he said.
Chauhan, aged around 50, was a decorated and highly experienced fighter pilot.
“During his service, Chauhan had held several important posts such as the Commanding Officer of the Test Pilots’ School. He also commanded a fighter squadron of the IAF,” said one of the officials.
“He was awarded the Vayu Sena Medal in 2010,” he said.
“He was an ace fighter pilot with a vast flying experience and had flown 17 types of aircraft of the IAF including Jaguar, Mig-21, Hunter, HPT-32, Iskara, Kiran, Avro-748, AN-32 and Boeing 737,” he said.
Chauhan also had the unique experience of flying modern foreign fighter jets such as Rafale, Gripen and Euro Fighter as the leader of evaluation for the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft selection, the officials said.
A Court of Inquiry has been ordered by the air headquarters to investigate the cause of the accident, Ojha said.
Some cows grazing in the field were killed after being hit by the jet’s debris, locals said.
The plane’s debris was strewn far and wide on the outskirts of the village and carcasses of the animals were seen lying in the field, they said.
Security agencies rushed to the spot and cordoned off the area, the locals said.