IAF fighter jets on Friday intercepted a Georgian An-12 aircraft flying from Tbilisi to Delhi via Karachi and forced it to land at the Jaipur airport after the plane entered the Indian air space from an unscheduled point, officials said.
The crew members of the cargo aircraft, which entered Indian airspace at 3:15 PM, were questioned at Jaipur, they said, adding the investigation lasted several hours and the plane was being allowed to leave.
The aircraft did not follow the authorised Air Traffic Services (ATS) route and was "shadowed and forced" to land at Jaipur for necessary investigation when it was flying at 27,000 ft, the officials said.
CISF personnel immediately cordoned-off the airport area.
The IAF said the aircraft entered Indian air space in North Gujarat sector and the air defence interceptor on operational readiness was scrambled and vectored towards the unknown aircraft for investigation.
Official sources said two Sukhoi 30 aircraft were scrambled to intercept the aircraft, adding the IAF has been maintaining highest levels of alertness since the Balakot strikes in Pakistan on February 26.
"The aircraft did not follow the authorised ATS route and was not responding to radio calls from Indian controlling agencies," the IAF said in a statement.
"Since ATS routes in the area were closed due to the current geopolitical situation, and the aircraft entered Indian air space from an unscheduled point, the Air Defence interceptor on operational readiness was scrambled and vectored towards the unknown aircraft for investigation," it said.
The IAF said the aircraft neither responded on international distress frequency nor to visual signals during interception.
"However, when challenged, the aircraft responded and informed that it was a non scheduled An-12 aircraft that had got airborne from Tbilisi for Delhi via Karachi. The aircraft was shadowed and forced to land at Jaipur for necessary investigation," it added.
The IAF said the aircraft entered Indian air space in North Gujarat with its IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) signal "on".
"Nothing suspicious was found in the investigation. The plane has been released," Jaipur Additional Police Commissioner Laxman Gaur told PTI.(PTI)
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine