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Sukhoi fighter jet with two pilots goes missing

A Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet of the Indian Air Force with two pilots on board went missing after taking off from the Tezpur IAF base in Assam during a routine training sortie on Tuesday.

A massive search operation, also involving helicopters, has been launched to trace the plane and the pilots, aged between 25 and 30, Defence spokesman Lt. Col. Sombit Ghosh of the Army's IV Corps said on Tuesday.

The identity of the two pilots has not been disclosed.

The fighter jet had taken off from the IAF station on the outskirts of Tezpur town at 10.30 am and it lost radar and radio contact around 60 km northeast of the air base, the officer, whose Corps is based in Tezpur, said.

An IAF statement that the plane was part of a two- aircraft formation.

Sonitpur Deputy Commissioner Manoj Kumar Deka told reporters that the airforce station had informed him that the last radar and radio contact with the plane was made at around 11.10 am when it was flying over Dubia in Gohpur sub- division of Biswanath district, adjacent to Sonitpur district.

The Air Force, after making a thorough search on its network, informed the deputy commissioner about the aircraft going missing. He then alerted Biswanath district authorities.

Deka said he has asked all sub-divisions in his district and requested officials in Biswanath district, bordering Arunachal Pradesh, besides village headmen to provide information about the missing aircraft.

At present, two squadrons -- around 36 aircraft -- are deployed at Tezpur for guarding the frontiers in Arunachal Pradesh with China. The planes were stationed at the airbase on June 15, 2009.

A Sukhoi aircraft had touched down at an advanced landing ground at Pasighat in eastern Arunachal Pradesh last year.

The Sukhoi-30 is a Russian-made, twin-engine supersonic fighter jet meant for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to- surface missions. The first batch of the planes was inducted by the IAF in the late 1990s.

A frontline aircraft of the IAF, Su-30 has several versions. Su-30 MKI is being built under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the Air Force. The plane can fly at a maximum speed of nearly 2,500 km per hour.

Since their induction, seven crashes have taken place. An inquiry into the plane accidents has primarily indicated technical failure as their cause.

The last Sukhoi accident occurred on March 15 when a Su- 30 MKI had crashed in Rajasthan's Barmer, hours after a Chetak helicopter crash landed and toppled in Kaushambi near Allahabad.

On May 19, 2015, an SU-30 had crashed in a paddy field in Nagaon district in Assam during a routine training mission but the two pilots had ejected safely.

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