A Sukhoi jet awaiting induction in the air force crashed this morning in Maharashtra's Nashik when it was on a test flight. Both pilots in the aircraft ejected safely before the plane crashed near a grape farm.
The Sukhoi Su-30MKI, which is a twin-jet multi-role air superiority fighter, crashed at Wavi-Tushi village near Pimpalgaon Baswant town, around 25 kilometres from Nashik, police said.
"The aircraft crashed at 11.05 am and the police received information about the crash at 11.15 am," an official told news agency PTI.
The Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jet that crashed was an under-production aircraft manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL in Nashik. The aircraft was still undergoing tests and was not yet handed over to the Indian Air Force.
Both pilots who ejected before the plane crashed were on deputation from the Indian Air Force.
Some farm labourers working in the field where the aircraft crashed, were injured after being hit by splinters and were admitted to the rural hospital at Pimpalgaon, police said.
According to news agency IANS, sources have said that the Sukhoi crash may have happened due to a technical glitch. A detailed investigation has been ordered.
Top officials of the Indian Air Force at Ojhar Air Force station, as well as the police reached the site soon after the crash and carried out an initial investigation.
A top official who was involved with the aircraft production, told news agency PTI that the Sukhoi which crashed today, was the first of the batch produced at the Aircraft Manufacturing Division at HAL Nashik this year.
"Normally around 12 aircraft for a new squadron are manufactured and each aircraft, worth over Rs 300 crore, has a manufacturing cycle of around 3 years," the official said.
"This particular aircraft had completed several flights and was about to be inducted into the Indian Air Force," he claimed.
The aircraft, developed by Russia's Sukhoi and built under licence by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), had taken off from the HAL airstrip near Nashik for a routine sortie, police said.
The Indian Air Force plans to upgrade its fleet of SU-30MKI to "Super Sukhois," which includes fitting the aircraft with new long-range, precision-strike weapons systems, upgraded engines, and more advanced avionics.
The Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter is meant for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface missions. The first of the Su-30 planes were inducted by the IAF in the late 1990s. Since then, at least half a dozen crashes have taken place, most of them attributed to technical failure.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS)