Old images of Mirage 2000 crash viral as two pilots dead in Rafale crash during training

Several Facebook and Twitter users have shared multiple images of a jet crash along with the claim, “Breaking news: one Rafale jet crash in India during training. 2 pilots dead.”

A Twitter user posted the viral images with a similar claim. (archived link)

The Indian government has signed a deal to procure 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation. “Five Rafale jets, including two twin-seaters, had landed on 29 July at the Ambala Air Force Station, home of the first squadron of the French fighters,” reported The Print. The second batch of Rafale jets, likely to be four in number, is set to arrive in October.

The claim that a Rafale jet crashed during training was also shared in Urdu by a Twitter user. It has been retweeted over 500 times since September 5. (archived link)

(Urdu text انڈیا کا جدید ترین فائٹر طیارہ “Rafale” گر کر تباہ ہوگیا، ساتھ پائلٹ بھی جہنم واصل ۔۔۔دنیا کی نالائق ترین ائیر فورس کے طیارے خود ہی گرتے ہیں گرانے کی ضرورت نہیں ہوتی #rafale_india_Crashed)

Some users have also posted a screenshot allegedly by the verified Twitter account of the Indian Air Force. The tweet reads, “Very shocked news! During exercise, Rafale has crashed near Ambala Airforce Station due to technical fault and a pilot martyred.” As per the screenshot it was posted on September 4. A Twitter user who claims to be Pakistani posted the screenshot. (archived link)

Fact-check

Image 1

Alt News performed a reverse image search and found that this was published by OMMCOM NEWS in their July 29 article. As per the article, hours after Rafale aircraft landed at the Ambala airbase in Haryana, the local administration imposed prohibitory orders, banning photography of assets and Rafale aircraft, and beefed up security. The article is a syndicated copy from IANS. However, there is no photo credit. Alt News found that the image was also published by India.com in 2017. As per this article’s photo credit, the image is a representational image of a Rafale jet.

Images 2, 3 and 4

Alt News performed a reverse image search on each of the images and found that they represent the same incident: Mirage 2000 crash at HAL airport runway in Bengaluru on February 1, 2019.

The leftmost image was published by The Indian Express with the caption, “According to IAF sources, the two pilots, Squadron leader Siddharth Negi and Squadron leader Sameer Abrol, sustained fatal injuries after the aircraft crashed during takeoff this morning. (Reuters)”

We then looked for the image on Reuters pictures and found that it dates back to February 2019. “Indian Air Force’s Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft crashed in the southern city of Bengaluru,” reads its description.

The next image was published by The Print. The image caption read, “Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft after it crashed in Bengaluru | PTI”

The final image was published by Deccan Herald which also said that it represents the same incident. “The wreckage of the Mirage-2000 fighter aircraft after it crash-landed, at HAL airport runway, soon after take-off for a training sortie in Bengaluru on Friday.”

Indian Air Force tweet screenshot

Alt News rummaged through the official Twitter account of the Indian Air Force and couldn’t find the viral tweet. Readers should note there is a grammatical error as well: “Very shocked news!”

PIB Fact Check also debunked the viral screenshot on September 11.

Thus, a representative image, photographs of the 2019 Mirage jet crash in Bengaluru and a fake screenshot of an Indian Air Force tweet were used to spread misinformation that a Rafale jet crashed and two pilots died during training.

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