Shimla: A MiG-21 fighter jet crashed in a village in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday, killing the pilot.
The aircraft, which was on a routine sortie, crashed at around 1.20 pm in Mehra Palli village under the Jawali police station, Kangra Superintendent of Police (SP) Santosh Patial said. The SP told PTI that he and other officials were on their way to the spot.
The aircraft had taken off from the Pathankot air base in Punjab, officials said. The aircraft was on a routine sortie. A court of inquiry has been ordered in the case.
Squadron Leader Meet Kumar, who was flying the Russian origin MiG-21 Bis aircraft died in the accident, he said, adding a Court of Inquiry (COI) has been ordered into it.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman expressed "deep grief" over death of the pilot.
"Our heartfelt condolences to the family of brave pilot Sqn Ldr Meet Kumar, who we lost in the fateful crash," she said.
Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kumar, quoting eyewitnesses, said the pilot appeared to have ensured that no harm was caused to the civilian population by steering the aircraft away from the area.
"He steered the aircraft towards the fields before it crashed to save the civilians and lost his life in the process," he added.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur also expressed grief over the death of the pilot.
The IAF has been grappling with rising incidents of accidents involving its flying platforms. This is the second Indian Air Force fighter jet crash in two months. On June 5, an Indian Air Force Jaguar fighter-bomber crashed in Gujarat's Kutch soon after take-off in June, killing the pilot, a senior Air Commodore.
Two IAF pilots were killed in a crash of a microlight aircraft in Assam's Majuli on February 15.
Earlier in January, an MiG 29K combat aircraft of the Indian Navy caught fire after it veered off the runway at Goa airport. The trainee pilot managed to eject safely from the aircraft, which crashed inside INS Hansa base while it was trying to take off.
A Mi-17 helicopter of the IAF had crashed near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh on October 6 last year, killing seven military personnel on board.
Four years ago, five crew members of a C-130J Super Hercules Special Operations transport aircraft were killed after the plane crashed during tactical training mission.
In the same year, a Jaguar combat jet crashed near Bholasar village in Rajasthan's Bikaner district. However, the pilot and co-pilot ejected safely. According to the defence ministry, the pilots detected a technical problem while landing at Nal airport in Bikaner and ejected.
Replying to a question on incidents of air crash, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre told the Lok Sabha that a total of 25 accidents involving IAF aircraft were reported since 2015-16.
According to data provided by him, a total of 39 people died in the accidents and that IAF lost all the aircraft involved in the crashes.
He said there were five accidents involving aircraft of the Army during the period in which four people were killed.