India's air force says an army helicopter carrying the country's defence chief has crashed in southern Tamil Nadu state.

The air force did not say whether Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat was injured in the accident.

Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati said three injured people were taken to a hospital.

Television images showed the helicopter in flames as local residents tried to douse it.

Rawat is the most senior official in the Indian military. He is also an adviser to the Defence Ministry. He assumed the newly created post last year after retiring as army chief.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the Mi-17V5 helicopter was on its way from an air force base to the army defence services college when it crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.