New Delhi: A Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) suffered first crash since induction in the service at Jaisalmer during an operational training sortie. The crash took place around 100 km from the Pokhran desert in Rajasthan where the ‘Bharat Shakti’ exercise, showcasing firepower of ‘desi weapons’, was witnessed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and top military brass. “The aircraft which crashed was part of the Bharat Shakti exercise,” said defence sources.

The pilot ejected safely and a court of inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident, the IAF said in a brief statement. “One Tejas aircraft of the Indian Air Force met with an accident at Jaisalmer, today during an operational training sortie. The pilot ejected safely. A Court of Inquiry has been constituted to find out the cause of the accident,” said the IAF.

A video showed that the aircraft glided at low altitude and was eventually up in flames after hitting the ground shortly after the pilot ejected safely from the jet. There was no loss of human life on the crash site near Kalla and Jawahar residential colonies. A portion of a hostel building was damaged but there was no one inside at the time. Fire brigades were rushed to the site and flames were doused. The pilot was taken to a hospital.

Tejas MK I aircraft that crashed is a final operational clearance (FOC) variant and it had

all the safety features. Manufactured by state-run aerospace behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the Tejas aircraft is a potent platform for air combat and offensive air support missions while reconnaissance and anti-ship operations are its secondary roles.

The project to build Tejas aircraft finally took off in 1984 after years of deliberations and the jet was formally declared fit to fly in 2011. The IAF received the first two Tejas aircraft having the initial operational clearance (IOC) configuration on July 1, 2016, after a wait of over three decades. The final operational clearance (FOC) configuration of the aircraft was announced in February 2019. The FOC involves addition of key capabilities to the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) aircraft which are beyond visual range missile capabilities, air-to-air refuelling and several other features.

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