NEW DELHI, March 8, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – An Indian fighter jet crashed Friday in desert close to the border with Pakistan — not after a dogfight with enemy planes but a collision with a bird, the air force said.
Tensions are running high following tit-for-tat air strikes and an aerial dogfight between the nuclear-armed Asian nations over the disputed Kashmir region last month.
The ageing Russian-made MiG-21 jet, which crash with some regularity, was on a routine sortie in western Rajasthan state when Friday’s accident happened. The pilot ejected safely.
“Initial inputs indicate the likely cause of accident as bird hit after take off,” the Indian Air Force said in a statement.
India carried out air strikes inside Pakistan on February 26 after 40 paramilitaries died in a suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
It was the first time since 1971 that India hit territory beyond Kashmir.
The next day Pakistani and Indian planes engaged in a dogfight over Kashmir. India said one of its aircraft was shot down — Pakistan said two — and its pilot captured by Pakistan’s military.
India said it shot down a Pakistani plane but Islamabad denied this.
Pakistan returned the pilot on March 1, easing tensions, but both sides have continued to fire shells and mortar over the de-facto border that divides Indian and Pakistani Kashmir.
Both countries are maintaining a tight vigil in the skies and conducting frequent fly-overs of Kashmir. India on March 4 shot down a Pakistani military drone, media reports said.
Pakistan said on Tuesday that it stopped an Indian submarine from entering its waters.