Fighter Pilot Dead After ‘Daredevil’ Stunt Goes Terribly Wrong; Ex-IAF Top Official Decodes ‘What Went Wrong’

The skies over Bangladesh witnessed a harrowing scene straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster but with a devastating real-life outcome. Bangladesh Air Force pilot and squadron leader Asim Jawad paid the ultimate price while attempting to conquer the skies with a high-risk ‘Top Gun’ stunt. The ill-fated attempt, brimming with adrenaline and risk, ended in disaster as the fighter jet, a Yakovlev Yak-130, succumbed to a catastrophic crash.

As the CCTV footage of the ill-fated stunt went viral, Air Vice Marshal Suryankant Chafekar (Retd.), a veteran voice in the aviation community reflecting on the incident, raised pertinent questions about the nature of such maneuvers and the safety protocols involved.

“Basically, all such exercises are undertaken to improve the control over aircraft flown; hence, they are to be undertaken at a safe altitude after considering all safety parameters. Was this a planned exercise? If yes, for what? Were the pilots authorized to undertake this exercise, or was it an act of indiscipline?” he pondered, highlighting the delicate balance between daring and discipline that defines the aviator’s creed.

The tragic spectacle unfolded on May 9 in Bangladesh, capturing global attention when CCTV footage of the stunt emerged on YouTube on May 14. As the Yakovlev Yak-130 roared across the runway, Asim Jawad sought to push the boundaries of aerial mastery. Pumped by adrenaline-fueled maneuvers, he embarked on a daring low-altitude triple spin, a feat reserved for the most skilled pilots.

Tragically, the stunt’s execution went awry, and the jet’s wings scraped the unforgiving tarmac, spewing sparks and smoke in its wake. In a heart-stopping moment, the aircraft struggled to regain its altitude, but gravity’s relentless pull ultimately prevailed, forcing both Commander Jawad and his co-pilot, Sohan Hasan Khan, to eject into the nearby river.

The Inter-Services Public Relations of Bangladesh (ISPR) attributed the catastrophic event to mechanical failure, plunging a nation to mourn the loss of a brave son and ponder the fine line between daring and disaster in the unforgiving skies.

Air Vice Marshal Chafekar’s words echoed the meticulousness that typically accompanies such aerial endeavors.

“All such sorties or maneuvers are meticulously planned endeavors and not impulsive actions. Typically, before embarking on any sortie, extensive preparations spanning three to four hours are dedicated solely to strategizing the execution. It’s a very thorough activity, far from a spontaneous decision to take to the skies and perform aerial acrobatics,” stated Chafekar.

“However, in this particular instance, uncertainty looms large. The age of the aircraft undoubtedly raises concerns. The authorization status remains unclear, whether the pilots were sanctioned to execute the stunt or acted independently. Flight safety has been totally thrown out of the window. Furthermore, the permissibility of such maneuvers at lower altitudes within the Bangladesh Air Force is shrouded in ambiguity. Performing maneuvers at such a low altitude is highly unconventional. A meticulously planned maneuver shouldn’t result in such a catastrophic outcome. It appears to be veering towards a breach of discipline”, Chafekar added.

Why Engage In Such Perilous Maneuvers?

But what is the necessity of executing such risky maneuvers? In the past, dogfights were commonplace, involving one-on-one aerial battles where fighters pursued each other.

Techniques such as rolls, loops, top rolls, and wingovers emerged as means to evade adversaries. However, with the introduction of beyond-visual-range missiles and air-to-air missiles, engaging in such combat, known as fighter combat, is no longer necessary. However, it is not an art that has died down. To keep this combat art alive, such maneuvers are still practiced but at safer altitudes. These maneuvers are typically learned in fighters, attack helicopters, and similar combat arms,” explained Chafekar.

Suryakant Chafekar, a retired officer of the Indian Air Force (IAF), is renowned for his remarkable achievements. Notably, he successfully landed an Antonov An-32 aircraft on High Altitude Advanced Landing Grounds (HAALGs) in Daulat Beg Oldi, situated at a staggering altitude of 16,700 feet (5,100 m) and approximately 9km (5.6 miles) from the Line of Actual Control with China. For this extraordinary feat, he was honored with the Shaurya Chakra by the President of India.

Furthermore, on February 18, 2002, during a trial landing at the Kargil airfield near the Pakistan border, his aircraft came under fire from a Pakistani missile, resulting in damage to one of the engines and setting the aircraft ablaze. Undeterred by the perilous situation, Chafekar skillfully piloted the aircraft with only one operational engine and successfully landed it at an IAF airfield in Leh.

Chinese J-10C Scores 9-0 Victory Over Eurofighter Typhoon As Its PR Machinery ‘Hot Sells’ 4.5-Gen Jets

Yakovlev Yak-130

The aircraft involved in the Bangladesh accident, a Yakovlev Yak-130, is a subsonic two-seat advanced jet trainer and light combat aircraft originally developed through a collaborative effort between the Russian aerospace giants Yakovlev and Aermacchi and introduced into service by the Russian Aerospace Forces in 1996.

In January 2014, Bangladesh placed an order for 24 Yak-130s, which were purchased with an extended loan from Russia. The delivery of these aircraft unfolded in phases, with the first batch of six Yak-130s touching down on Bangladeshi soil on September 20, 2015.

Continuing the steady influx, the second batch of five aircraft arrived on December 29 of the same year, closely followed by the next five being delivered within the first quarter of 2016.

File Image: Yak-130

On July 23, Russia elevated the Yak-130 training aircraft to the status of a Su-25 attack aircraft. On September 23, Iran secured these aircraft from Russia. Presently, in addition to Russia and Bangladesh, Algeria and Belarus utilize this aircraft in their air force fleets.

Prior to this incident, in July 2017, a Yakovlev Yak-130 belonging to the Bangladesh Air Force crashed in Lohagara, located in the southeastern Chittagong District of Bangladesh. Miraculously, both pilots emerged unscathed from the ordeal.

Another incident took place in December 2017. Two Yakovlev Yak-130s from the Bangladesh Air Force collided mid-air and crashed on Maheshkhali Island in Cox’s Bazar. According to the official report, the collision occurred during a training exercise while breaking formation. Fortunately, all four pilots involved were rescued and survived the incident.

“India boasts a substantial defense budget. Nevertheless, we encounter challenges regarding the replacement of aircraft, don’t we? In a democratic setup, acquisition or procurement undergoes extensive scrutiny. Let’s compare the defense budgets of India and Bangladesh. While India might face issues with aircraft replacement, one can only imagine the predicament in Bangladesh. If there are no alternative aircraft available, what choice remains? You have to make the best of it. That is how things are done”, said Chafekar.

  • Shubhangi Palve is a Defence and aerospace Journalist. Before joining the EurAsian Times, she worked for ET Prime. In this capacity, she focused on covering Defence strategies and the Defence Sector from a financial perspective. She offers more than 15 years of extensive experience in the media industry, spanning print, electronic, and online domains.
  • Contact the author at shubhapalve (at) gmail (dot) com.