x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Nine killed as military helicopters collide mid-air

Nine Indian air force personnel were killed yesterday when two Russian-designed military helicopters apparently collided in mid-air.

NEW DELHI // Nine Indian air force personnel were killed yesterday when two Russian-designed military helicopters apparently collided in mid-air.

The two Mi-17 helicopters were "flying in close formation" over a firing range in the western state of Gujarat when they crashed, the air force spokesman, Wing Commander Gerard Galway, said.

"It is likely it was a mid-air collision," Cmdr Galway said, confirming that all nine on board the two aircraft had died.

Cmdr Galway said an inquiry would establish exactly how the accident occurred.

An air official who did not want to be named said the two helicopters were practising firing over the range near a military airbase in Jamnagar district when the accident happened.

Television pictures showed skeletal, charred remains of the helicopters in what seemed like a sparsely populated area

"One of the helicopters also caught fire after hitting a high-tension power cable," Harikrishna Patil, the Jamnagar police chief, said.

The country's military has been plagued by often fatal accidents due to obsolete hardware. More than half of the 872 MiG fighters India bought from Russia since the early 1960s have crashed.

India plans to spend about US$100 billion (Dh367bn) over the next 10 years to upgrade its military equipment.