Fighter meant for Indian Navy crashes in Russia

Concerns have been raised on India's brand new fleet of aircraft carrier-borne fighters with the crash of a MiG 29 KUB fighter in Russia that was to be shortly delivered to the Indian Navy. The crash, that killed both pilots on board, occurred in South Russia's Astrakhan region on Thursday, shortly before the fighter was to be handed over to India.

A concerned Indian Navy, which already has the fighters in service at the Dabolim base in Goa, has sought details from the manufacturer and will take a call on grounding the jets after a response. Russia, which is the only other nation to operate the naval fighters, has reportedly grounded its own fleet. The crashed MiG 29 was one of the four trainer versions of the jets that India had ordered in 2004.

Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said on Friday that feedback on the crash is still awaited. "We have sought a clarification from the Russian company because this aircraft was still with the company and was being flown by its own pilots. If they feel there is a technical reason to do it, which demands grounding, that would be done," he said, speaking to the media on the sidelines of a navy function in the Capital.

Verma clarified that Indian pilots were not flying the aircraft as it had not been delivered by MiG. He also said an Indian team is present at the MiG factory to oversee the development of the fighters. "If there is any reason to believe that there is some technical reason, we will address it at that time. At this point in time, that is not the case," Verma said.

The Indian Navy has ordered 16 MiG 29s from Russia, including four trainers, for the Gorshkov aircraft carrier that is now expected to be delivered by late next year. At present, the fighters are being used for shore based operations and training of pilots.

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