Old photos of unrelated aircrafts are used to claim Rafale fighter jet crashed during training in India in September 2020

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Four photos have been shared in multiple posts on Facebook and Twitter alongside a claim that they show a crashed Dassault Rafale fighter jet in India in September 2020, just two months after India procured the jets from France in a deal that sparked months of political controversy. However, the claim is false; three images have separately circulated online since February 2019 in reports about the crash of another fighter jet, while one image is a stock photo of a Rafale fighter jet. 

The photos were published here on Facebook on September 9, 2020.

A screenshot of the misleading Facebook post captured on September 16, 2020

The post’s caption states: “Breaking news: one Rafale jet crash during training. 2 pilots dead.”

In July 2020, India received the first batch of France-made Dassault Rafale fighter jets it purchased in a controversial multibillion-dollar deal.

The deal, estimated to be worth $9.4 billion, has been overshadowed by corruption allegations levelled by the opposition Congress party although Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rejected the claims, according to this AFP report.

The same photos were also published here, here and here on Facebook; and here, here, here and here on Twitter, alongside a similar claim.

However, the claim is false.

First photo

A reverse image search found the first photo published in this February 1, 2019, report by the Indian Express about an Indian Air Force trainer aircraft crash.

The headline reads: “Mirage 2000 fighter jet crashes in Bengaluru, two pilots dead”, and reads, in part: “Two Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots were killed on Friday after a Mirage 2000 trainer fighter aircraft on a test sortie crashed at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) airport in Bengaluru”.

Mirage 2000 is a multirole fighter jet also manufactured by France’s Dassault Aviation.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the first photo in the misleading Facebook post (L) and the photo in the Indian Express report (R):

Screenshot comparison of the first photo in the misleading Facebook post (L) and the photo in the Indian Express report (R)

The report credits the photo to Reuters, which can also be seen here on the Reuters website.

Screenshot of photo published on Reuters website

The photo caption on the Reuters website states: “Smoke and fire billow after an Indian Air Force's Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft crashed in the southern city of Bengaluru, India, February 1, 2019.”

Second photo

A separate reverse image search found the second photo was published here by Indian news website The Print on February 9, 2019, in a report about the same Mirage 2000 jet crash.

The article credits the photo to Indian news agency PTI. 

Below is a screenshot comparison of the second photo in the misleading Facebook post (L) and the photo published by The Print (R):

Screenshot comparison of the second photo in the misleading Facebook post (L) and the photo published by The Print (R)

Third photo

AFP found the third photo was published here by Ommcom News, a news website in east India’s Odisha state. It was featured as a reference image in a July 29, 2020, report about a press ban prohibiting photo coverage of the arrival of the first batch of Rafale fighter jets bought from France.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the third photo in the misleading Facebook post (L) and the photo in the Ommcom News article (R):

Screenshot comparison of the third photo in the misleading Facebook post (L) and the photo in the Ommcom News article (R)

The same photo is also used to illustrate Rafale fighter jets that India would acquire, for example in this June 2020 report by Asia Times and this October 2019 report by DNA India. 

Fourth photo

Another reverse image search found the fourth photo in the misleading posts printed here in a report about the same Mirage 2000 crash as the first and second photos, by the Indian news agency United News of India (UNI) on February 1, 2019.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the fourth photo in the misleading Facebook post (L) and the photo in the UNI report (R):

Screenshot comparison of the fourth photo in the misleading Facebook post (L) and the photo in the UNI report (R)

The same photo can also be found on other local media reports of the same crash, including the Financial Express here and the Goa Chronicle here.