Second loss of strategic asset after Sindhurakshak
New Delhi: Five Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel have been killed as the US-produced special operations aircraft C-130-J crashed 72 miles west of Gwalior, this morning. The dead include two Wing Commanders, both pilots, two Squadron Leaders and a Warrat Officer, all of them died on the spot. IAF rushed in its helicopters to look for the debris and it has been secured.
It is seen as a major set-back and the loss of second strategic asset in less than one year – the INS Sindhurakshak had sunk off the Mumbai harbour on August 14, last year.
The plane had taken off from the IAF base at Agra at 10 am and was on a routine tactical training sortie. “The aircraft was airborne from Agra at 1000 hours for a routine flying training mission. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate into the cause of the accident,” an IAF spokesperson said today.
The plane had cost nearly Rs 720 crore as per dollar-rupee exchange rates when the deal was signed in 2008 for the supply of six such planes for US $ 962 million.
The crashed plane was not alone, there was another C-130-J which had taken off from Agra this morning. The one that crashed probably developed a snag. The details will be known after the CoI is complete.
The IAF has so far not called in the US manufacturer or the engine maker the UK firm Rolls Royce for the inquiry. The plane has four-turbo prop engines and it is rare for such plane to just fall-off in mid-flight. In February this year 71 people had died when an Algerial Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed into Djebel, Fertas.
This was the biggest crash for the IAF since its Mi-17-V5 crashed in rescue operations in Uttarakhand on June 25 last year killing all 19 on board, including IAF pilots and ITBP men.
The C-130-J is fifteen-year old version of the Lockheed Martin’s iconic C-130 series of military planes. The first of the planes was inducted in 2011. The planes have been on some of the most daring mission including landing at Dharasu in Uttarakhand in June last year to drop fuel supplies on very short runaway.
One C-130 was also used to land at the highest advanced landing ground at Daulat Beg Oldie in northern Ladakh. Notably, it can operate from 2,000 foot-long dirt strips in high mountain ranges.
The plane is one of the sturdiest with more than a million flying hours and is operated by by 16 countries. “It has some 54 world records to its credit,” says the Lockheed Martin website.The C-130-J’s first deliveries started in 1999 when the Royal Air Force of UK ordered 25 aircraft.