AT least nine Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel have been killed when two helicopters collided mid-air in the western state of Gujarat.

The Russian-made Mi-17 choppers were on a training sortie at a firing range in the Jamnagar district when Thursday’s accident occurred.

Locals who witnessed the accident said the helicopters crashed in fields and one of them caught fire.

“There were nine personnel on board and all succumbed to injuries,” IAF spokesman Gerard Galway said in a statement in New Delhi.

Five officers and four men from other ranks were onboard, officials said.

The spokesman said an inquiry had been ordered into the cause of the crash near Jamnagar, 280km west of the state capital Gandhinagar.

According to the IANS news agency, the choppers were flying close to each other when their rotor blades came in contact. Training missions usually involve helicopters flying at a close proximity to each other, the report said citing sources.

The Mi-17 forms the backbone of the IAF’s helicopter fleet and has a good safety record.