Sukhoi Fighter Jet crashes near Nashik, pilots safe after ejection

The twin-seater multi-role fighter jet was on a routine training sortie when it suffered an unexplained technical failure and crashed around 10 am, according to initial reports from defence officials.

A Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jet of the Indian Air Force crashed in an open area near Shirasgaon village in the Nashik district of Maharashtra on Tuesday morning. However, the pilots managed to eject safely from the aircraft, averting a major tragedy.

The twin-seater multi-role fighter jet was on a routine training sortie when it suffered an unexplained technical failure and crashed around 10 am, according to initial reports from defence officials.

Visuals from the crash site showed thick plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky as the aircraft wreckage burned in an open field. Residents of nearby villages rushed to the spot after hearing a loud explosion.

The IAF has ordered a Court of Inquiry to investigate the cause of the accident involving the frontline air superiority fighter. The Su-30MKI is a nuclear-capable aircraft that forms the backbone of the IAF’s fighter fleet.

This is the third accident involving a Sukhoi fighter jet operated by the IAF this year. In March, a Sukhoi-30 crashed in Rajasthan’s Barmer district, killing three civilians on the ground. Another Sukhoi crashed in Assam in January but both pilots ejected safely.

The Su-30MKI is a twinjet multirole air superiority fighter developed by Russia’s Sukhoi and built under licence by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The all-weather jet has a range of around 3,000 km and can carry a range of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and bombs.

Aviation safety experts have repeatedly raised concerns over the high accident rate involving India’s Sukhoi fleet in recent years. While the jets are highly capable, the string of crashes has brought issues of maintenance, pilot training and airworthiness into focus.

The Indian Air Force currently operates around 272 Sukhoi fighter jets across its squadrons. The fleet is expected to undergo mid-life upgrades and remain in service for several more decades as the IAF looks to modernize its combat aircraft inventory with inductions like the Rafale and indigenous programmes like Tejas.