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Indian missile accident endangered dozens of commercial jets, data shows

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Indian missile accident endangered dozens of commercial jets, data shows

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A missile that was "accidentally" launched out of India last week fired into the flight path of dozens of commercial jets flying in the region at the same time, Bloomberg reported.

The report stated that several planes passed through the direct trajectory of the missile on March 9, which flew from the Indian garrison town of Ambala and ended up in Mian Channu in Punjab.

"They included a Flydubai jet heading to Dubai from Sialkot, an IndiGo plane going from Srinagar to Mumbai and an Airblue Ltd. flight from Lahore to Riyadh. All crossed the missile’s trajectory within an hour of its accidental launch," the report quoted data from flight-tracking application Flightradar24.

Read more: Indian missile accident could endanger regional peace: army

Other international flights in the vicinity of the missile’s trajectory — and within its range — included a Kuwait Airways Co. jet heading to Guangzhou, China from Kuwait City, a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight to Riyadh from New Delhi, and a Qatar Airways service from Kathmandu to Doha, the data showed.

No advisory to pilots operating in the vicinity — known as a notice to airmen or NOTAM — was issued.

A time-lapse video of the airspace — prepared by Flightradar24 by request of Bloomberg News — showed busy activity in the skies within an hour and half of both sides of 7pm local time on March 9, which India said was the approximate time of the accidental launch.

India’s “robust” missiles handling procedures are being reviewed and will be strengthened further, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told lawmakers earlier this week.

“Very unfortunate. It could have led to a disaster, what if it hit a Pakistan International aircraft?” said Mark Martin, founder of Dubai-based Martin Consulting.

“The bigger concern is what if it was taken as a hostile action by Pakistan? We can’t brush it under the carpet, those accountable must be held accountable. This could have escalated into a full-blown conflict.”

Also read: No indication Indian missile launch anything other than an accident: US

The report stated that the averted disaster is reminiscent of the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, when a missile owned by a Russia-based military unit hit the plane over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people aboard. In 2020, Iran unintentionally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet it mistook for a cruise missile, killing 176.

The Indian mishap last week had the potential of turning deadly, with Pakistan preparing to launch a similar missile to strike India, Bloomberg News reported earlier this week. It eventually held fire after an initial assessment indicated something was amiss.

The flight path of the missile — which Pakistan continuously monitored from near the point of its origin in Sirsa in India — endangered many international and domestic passenger flights both in Indian and Pakistani airspace and could have resulted in a “major aviation disaster,” DG ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar told reporters in Rawalpindi on March 10.

The missile flew at an altitude of 40,000 feet and an ultimate speed of mach 3 (2,300 miles) an hour, Air Vice Marshall Tariq Zia said in the same briefing. Modern commercial jets tend to cruise below and around that altitude, the report further said.

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