Bikaner: A policeman stands near the charred remains of a MiG-21 plane that crashed at Shoba Sar ki Dhani in Bikaner, Friday, March 8, 2019. (PTI Photo)  (PTI3_8_2019_000096B)
Bikaner: A policeman stands near the charred remains of a MiG-21 plane that crashed at Shoba Sar ki Dhani in Bikaner, Friday, March 8, 2019. (PTI Photo) (PTI3_8_2019_000096B)

Bikaner: A MiG-21 Bison fighter jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed on Friday near Bikaner during a routine mission. Initial inputs suggest that the aircraft malfunctioned due to a bird hit. The pilot ejected safely. A Commission of Inquiry will investigate the cause of the accident.

The MiG-21 crash has come at a time of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan. Both the air forces have been involved in bombing missions. An IAF spokesperson said the MiG lost contact with Air Traffic Control minutes after taking off from Nal, near Bikaner.

The debris fell in Shobhasar village. The “Bison” is an upgraded version of the MiG-21 jet, which was frist inducted into the IAF in the 1960s, soon after the India-China war. The upgrade was done at HAL in 2006. The upgraded version was equipped with the Phazotron Kopyo airborne radar which is capable of simultaneously tracking eight targets and engaging two of them with air-to-air missiles.

Initially, the MiG-21 could carry only free-fall bombs (those without guiding system). It is now capable of carrying a wide range of guided munition, including the R- 73 air-to-air missile, which hunted down a Pakistani F-16 aircraft during a dogfight on February 27.