A Mirage-2000 fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed at the military airport runway near Bengaluru soon after take-off for a training sortie on Friday, officials said. Two pilots lost their lives in the crash that took place around 10.30 am on the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited runway in Yemalur.

The Indian Air Force has confirmed that two pilots were killed after they ejected from the Mirage 2000 fighter.

The two pilots have been identified as Squadron Leader Siddharth Negi and Squadron Leader Sameer Abrol.

HAL had initially said the condition of the pilots was not known.

“A Mirage-2000 aircraft crashed at HALAirport during a sortie today at around 10:30 am. Both pilots ejected. Further details are awaited,” HAL had tweeted at 11:30 am.

The police later said one of the pilots had died on the spot while the condition of the other one was critical.

“The body of one of the pilots is completely charred while the second pilot is in a serious condition,” a police officer at the HAL Airport police station told PTI.

Both pilots had been taken to Command Hospital, according to reports.

It could not be known immediately as to the fighter was at what stage of the take-off run when the pilots ejected.

According to eyewitnesses, the plane went up in flames after crashing with an explosion. Passers-by and residents living near the airport could see thick smoke billowing from the spot.

Firefighters and the ground staff at the HAL airport immediately started dousing the flames.

An investigation has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.

The state-run HAL operates the military airport at Yemalur along with the IAF and other state-run defence and aerospace agencies such as Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).

The Mirage 2000 is equipped with ‘zero speed, zero altitude’ ejection seats, which allow the pilots to eject even if the aircraft is on the ground and is not moving. HAL is working on upgrading the IAF’s Mirage 2000 fleet with new electronics and weaponry.

(With agency inputs)