Chinese ‘Psy-Ops’ Against Indian Air Force? Tweet On High Number Of Fighter Jet Crashes In 2021 Targets IAF

Even as tensions along the Indo-China border remain high, Beijing is seizing every opportunity to launch psychological ops against the Indian armed forces, this time focusing on the Indian Air Force’s crashes that happened in 2021.

Belligerent Dragon Or A Wily Fox – Why India’s ‘Bear Hug’ To Old-Pal Russia Could Change The Power Dynamics?

Chinese social media users have shared a graphic highlighting the number of IAF planes that had crashed last year. The post with the caption “Indian Air Force in 2021” was shared by a Chinese Twitter handle, who seems to be a sympathizer of the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese Twitter accounts have been using propaganda to undermine and defame the Indian armed forces in the past few years. 

However, China is not the only country that is trying to smear IAF’s image; several social media handles in Pakistan have also joined this purported anti-India campaign. Pakistanis gloat about their JF-17s while belittling the IAF’s performance.

While the Chinese and Pakistani cybernauts are busy targeting the Indian military, Indians have come up with strong rebuttals.

Yusuf Unjhawala, Editor, Indian Defence Forum, tweeted, “Unlike China, which conceals crashes and pilot deaths, India doesn’t hide. While the truth about what happened in Galwan is still being concealed, India, as a democratic country, stays transparent about it.”. 

China has a long history of propagating false information against India. After India’s Chief of Defense General Bipin Rawat died in a helicopter crash last month, the Chinese state-run media, Global Times, questioned the Indian military’s lack of discipline and war readiness.

In addition, the Indian Air Force’s modernization plans were also criticized by the publication. Despite the diatribe by China and Pakistan, 2021 has been one of the worst years for the IAF in recent times, with 11 crashes and 22 deaths.

IAF Crashes In 2021

The EurAsian Times has earlier reported that with five crashes in 2021, the MiG-21 Bison was the aircraft involved in most accidents. These crashes resulted in the deaths of three pilots. The latest incident took place in Rajasthan on December 24, 2021, during a training sortie, killing the pilot, Wing Commander Harshit Sinha. 

Another pilot, Group Captain Ashish Gupta was killed in March 2021 when his MiG-21 crashed shortly after takeoff from the Gwalior airfield. He was a seasoned pilot assigned to the Indian Air Force’s Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment at Gwalior.

File:CU2769 Mikoyan Mig-21 Indian Air Force (8413513629).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Mikoyan Mig-21 Indian Air Force – Wikimedia Commons

In May 2021, Squadron Leader Abhinav Choudhary (28) was killed when his MiG-21 ‘Bison’ crashed after taking off from Suratgarh airport in Rajasthan for a routine night combat training sortie. The first incident of 2021 took place in January, when another MiG-21 Bison crashed in Suratgarh, Rajasthan. The pilot was able to safely eject from the plane. 

Due to its frequent crashes, the MiG-21 has acquired the nickname of “flying coffin”. Between 1971 and April 2012, 482 MiG aircraft were involved in accidents, killing 171 pilots, 39 civilians, eight service members, and one aircrew, according to the government.

In October 2021, an Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fighter crashed near the Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh. The pilot was able to eject safely. The accident happened when the aircraft took off from the Maharajpura airbase at Gwalior for a training sortie. 

The crash in 2021 also involved two variants of Indian-made Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters. On January 25, 2021, an Indian Army Druv helicopter crashed near the Jammu and Kashmir-Punjab border in Kathua district’s Lakhanpur, killing one of the pilots.

Indian Army Dhruv Helicopter at Aero India 2013 – Wikimedia Commons

On August 8, 2021, a HAL Dhruv helicopter belonging to the Indian Army crashed into the water near Ranjit Sagar Dam in the northern Indian state of Punjab. The Army Aviation Corps, a branch of the Indian Army, saw three crashes, killing five pilots. Since Hindustan Aeronautics Limited began producing them in 2002, the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) has been involved in 16 accidents, according to the government. 

In September 2021, a Cheetah helicopter crash at Patnitop killed two officers — Major Rohit Kumar (35) and Major Anuj Rajput (28) — while they were on a routine sortie. The chopper was returning to the Udhampur base from the Kishtwar area of Jammu and Kashmir. 

In December 2021, two Mi-17V5 helicopters crashed, including one that killed the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika, and 11 other personnel.

Another IAF Mi17V5 helicopter crashed in eastern Arunachal Pradesh on November 8, 2021. The two pilots and three crew members sustained minor injuries. 

The Army and Air Force officials remained tightlipped regarding the high number of crashes, however, maintained they were “within expected levels” when compared to overall flying hours.