Indian fighter jet crash a reminder of need for new equipment

by Reuters
Tuesday, 27 May 2014 08:23 GMT

By Fayaz Bukhari

SRINAGAR, India, May 27 (Reuters) - An Indian fighter jet crashed in the Himalayan border state of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, the latest in a line of similar accidents and a reminder for the new defence minister of the crucial need for new military equipment.

The single-seater MiG-21 jet, a Russian-built aircraft, crashed close to the town of Awantipora in the south of the state, an Indian Air Force spokesman told Reuters.

The pilot was killed but there were no other casualties.

The accident was the latest in a series of crashes involving India's fleet of MiG aircraft, which have been nicknamed "flying coffins" by the Indian press.

More than half India's fleet of 872 MiGs has been lost to crashes over the last four decades, the country's then Defence Minister A.K. Antony told parliament in 2012.

Arun Jaitley, a close confidante of India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was named finance and defence minister on Tuesday. Jaitley's top task as defence minister will be to reboot India's sluggish attempts to procure much-needed equipment for its armed forces.

Modi and his cabinet were sworn in on Monday, sealing the resounding defeat of the Congress party after its decade in power. Jaitley will lead the defence ministry on a temporary basis, alongside his permanent post as finance minister.

India, the world's biggest arms importer, hopes to spend $100 billion over a decade to upgrade its military, often through partnerships between foreign and local companies. But many deals have been stalled or scrapped, due to corruption allegations and the outgoing government's slow pace.

The Congress-led coalition government in January cancelled a contract with Italy's Finmeccanica to supply a dozen high-end helicopters, almost a year after graft allegations were made against the company. The deal is now in arbitration. . (Additional reporting by Sruthi Gottipati in NEW DELHI; Writing by Shyamantha Asokan; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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