- The aircraft did not follow the authorised Air Traffic Services route
- The incident is not being seen as a major crisis
- The pilots and crew are being questioned, sources said
Indian Air Force fighter jets on Friday forced a Georgian An-12 aircraft from Tbilisi to Delhi via Karachi to land at the Jaipur airport over violation of air space. The plane was released after a few hours.
The aircraft deviated from its scheduled flight path and entered Indian Air Space at 3:15 pm from an unscheduled point in north Gujarat. News agency ANI, quoting sources, reported the cargo plane entered the Indian air space around 70 kilometres north of an important air base in the Rann of Kutch, which is closed for civilian air traffic.
"The aircraft did not follow the authorized Air Traffic Services (ATS) route and was not responding to Radio calls from Indian controlling agencies. Since ATS routes in the area were closed due to the current geopolitical situation, and the aircraft entered Indian Air Space from an unscheduled point, the Air Defence interceptor on operational readiness was scrambled and vectored towards the unknown aircraft for investigation," the government said in a statement.
The aircraft neither responded on international distress frequency nor to visual signals during interception, the government added. It was spotted flying by two Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets at an altitude of 27,000 feet.
"When challenged, the aircraft responded and informed that it was a non-scheduled An-12 aircraft that had got airborne from Tbilisi (Georgia) for Delhi via Karachi. The aircraft was shadowed and forced to land at Jaipur for necessary investigation," the statement said.
Sources said the pilots and crew were questioned.
ANI, quoting sources, said the cargo plane was being leased by a Ukrainian engine manufacturer ''MotorSich''.
This was an expected flight on a scheduled route and is not being seen as a major crisis.
"It wasn't a serious violation, it's been released," Jaipur Additional Commissioner of Police told ANI.
Months after tensions between India and Pakistan peaked and they engaged in an aerial dogfight at the Line of Control, the IAF scrambled its fighter jets the moment the aircraft was detected.
Hundreds of commercial and cargo flights have been affected by continuing tensions between India and Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack and Balakot air strikes.
Restrictions over Pakistani airspace have forced international airlines including those from India to take costly and lengthy detours.
The Antonov An-12, which was forced to land on Friday, is a four-engined turboprop transport aircraft designed in the Soviet Union and is very popular with cargo operators.
With inputs from ANI