A Sea Harrier
of the Indian Navy crashed this morning, minutes before 12PM off the coast of Goa. The pilot, Lt Cdr Saurav C Saxena of the White Tigers Squadron was killed in the crash. A court of inquiry (COI) has been ordered. The aircraft that crashed one of the seven newly upgraded (Limited Upgrade) Sea Harriers of the Navy (two more are currently under upgrade by HAL). The Harrier was flying a mission in support of a Naval Veer
-class guided missile corvette about 20 miles off the coast of Goa when it went down. Personnel on board the warship reported witnessing the aircraft impact the water. The crash did not happen during an exercise as has been reported by some agencies. It was very much an operational mission involving support of a corvette from a Mumbai squadron.
The depth of the sea at the point of impact is only about 40-meters, and therefore the Navy is hoping to rapidly complete a salvage operation. Some parts have already been salvaged. Investigations into the crash, like all previous inquiries involving the Sea Harrier, will be deeply difficult since the aircraft does not have a Flight Data Recorder (FDR) or even an accident-oriented Cockpit Voice Recorder (except for training purposes, with manual override available to the pilot). Lt Cdr Saxena is noted to have been a highly professional pilot, with a good deal of experience in fleet support missions.
Incidentally, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta was in Goa on a farewell visit at the time of the crash.
RIP Lt Cdr SC Saxena.