A MiG-29K fighter of the Indian Navy crashed into the Arabian Sea on Thursday, with search and rescue teams recovering one of the pilots while the other was still missing even as efforts to locate him have been intensified, navy officials said a day after the Russian-origin jet went down off India’s west coast.
The twin-seat trainer jet crashed at 5 pm after taking off from the deck of India’s only aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, the officials said. Both pilots ejected from the aircraft before it went down, they added.
Thursday’s crash is the fourth accident involving the MiG-29K maritime fighter fleet.
Scores of warships and aircraft are scouring the Arabian Sea to locate the missing pilot identified by the navy as Commander Nishant Singh.
“A MiG-29K trainer aircraft operating at sea ditched at about 1700 hrs on 26 Nov 20. One pilot (the trainee) has been recovered and search by air and surface units is in progress for the second pilot,” navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said on Friday. The navy has ordered an inquiry into the accident.
While the cause of the crash is yet to be ascertained, India’s top auditor had to pointed to some deficiencies in the deck-based fighter, including engine troubles, airframe problems, deficiencies in its fly-by-wire system and poor serviceability, in a report tabled in Parliament four years ago.
The MiG-29K is riddled with problems relating to airframe, RD MK-33 engine and its fly-by-wire system, Comptroller and Auditor Generalsaid in the July 2016 report.
The CAG report revealed that the serviceability of the single-seat fighter ranged from an unimpressive 15.93% to 37.63 % while that of the twin-seat trainer hovered between 21.3% and 47.14%.
The navy commissioned its first squadron of MiG-29K fighters at Goa in May 2013, ahead of the induction of INS Vikramaditya. India has so for bought 45 MiG-29K fighters from Russia.
The navy plans to also deploy the fighters on the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being built at the state-owned Cochin Shipyard.
The 44,500-tonne Vikramaditya and its embarked MiG-29K fighters had taken part in the recently concluded Malabar exercise involving the navies of India, the United States, Australia and Japan.
The second phase of the exercise was held in Arabian Sea from November 17-20.