Less than 10 minutes after it took off from Agra, one of the Indian Air Force's newest and sturdiest aircraft crashed near Gwalior, killing all five people on board.
The US-made C-130J Super Hercules
military transport aircraft came down 115 kms or 72 miles west of Gwalior, while on a routine training mission.
The Defence Minister said it had ordered an investigation into the cause of the accident. The black Box and the flight data recorder of the aircraft have been recovered and could help unravel what went wrong.
The heavy-lift cargo aircraft, one of six bought for the air force at a cost of 6,000 crores in 2011, had been inducted into into service just last year
Air Force Chief Arup Raha said, "In the last three years of its operations we have exploited capabilities of this aircraft during Uttarakhand floods and landing at DBO (Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh), which is the highest landing ground in the world. Needless to say, that the best pilots have been chosen to fly these aircraft." (Read full text of the Air chief's statement here
India had recently deployed one of these aircraft to take part in the search and rescue operation for the missing Malaysian MH370 flight.
Today's was the first crash of a Hercules aircraft of the Indian Air Force, which has been plagued for years by the crashes of its Russian-made MiG-21 fighters.
This is the third crash of a C-130J
in the past 15 years.
The Indian Air Force C-130J
planes are configured for special mission roles and are fitted with an infrared detection set, enabling precision low-level flying. The cargo aircraft can land on unpaved surfaces and requires a very short take-off and landing space.
India plans to purchase another half a dozen C-130J aircraft but before it does that, the Air Force will want to determine the exact cause of this tragic accident.