Gwalior/New Delhi: A Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF), flown by a senior Air Marshal-rank officer, on Friday crashed near Bhind in Madhya Pradesh, five minutes after taking off from an air base in Gwalior but both the pilots managed to eject safely.

The Mirage 2000 aircraft was being flown by Air Marshal Anil Chopra, who is the Air Officer Personnel (AOP), when it developed a snag in the engine and crashed near Bhind district, an IAF spokesperson said in Delhi.

59-year-old Air Marshal Chopra was in Gwalior for the silver jubilee of induction of the Mirage 2000 into the IAF.

He is the Commodore Commandant of the 'No. 1 Tiger Squadron' deployed in Gwalior.

"The pilots, Air Marshal Chopra and Wing Commander Ram Kumar got airborne from Gwalior airbase for a routine flying sortie at 1201 hours and within five minutes, the plane developed a snag in the engine after which the two pilots ejected safely," he said.

"Both Air Marshal Chopra and Wg Cdr Kumar, who is the Commanding Officer of the No 1 Squadron, were taken to the Gwalior military hospital for check-up and are safe," the spokesperson said.

The IAF has ordered a court of inquiry (CoI) under a senior officer to ascertain the reasons behind the crash.

Chambal Range's Deputy Inspector General (DIG) D P Gupta told reporters in Gwalior that the wreckage of the fighter plane was found in the ravines of Chambal near Kunwari river. He identified the area as Gorelal Ka Pura hamlet under Bhind district's Gormi Police Station.

Gupta said since the plane crashed in a deserted place, no loss or injury to human life or property was reported.

The Air Force operates a fleet of 51 Mirage aircraft from the Maharajpura air base in Gwalior.

The Mirage 2000 planes started getting inducted into the IAF in the mid-80s and have had a very good flight safety record, IAF sources said.

In over two decades of their operational flying in the IAF, only five Mirage 2000 aircraft have crashed and this is the first instance where it has crashed due to engine problems, they said.

The IAF has recently signed two deals worth over USD 3.2 billion for upgrading the capabilities of the Mirage 2000 with French companies--Dassault, Thales and MBDA.

This is the second crash involving an IAF aircraft this year. A Kiran MK II trainer plane had crashed in Chennai on January 30.

In this financial year, this is the eighth crash of a fighter aircraft of which most were from the MiG 21 series.

(Agencies)