Friday, December 18, 2009

140 killed in 265 MiG fighter jet crashes

2009-12-02 18:10:00

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has lost 265 MiG fighter jets in crashes during the last two decades leaving 140 people dead, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Wednesday.

'In the last two decades (since April 1989 and up to Nov 26, 2009), 265 MiG fighter aircraft of the IAF have crashed. A total of 96 service personnel and 44 civilians were killed in these cases,' Antony told the parliament in a written reply.


Dubbed 'flying coffins' for their frequent crashes, only 150-160 of the over 450 single-engine MiG-21s with the IAF are still in service. A large number have been lost in accidents during peace time.

Antony said that all precautions are being taken before flying the aircrafts.

'Each aircraft accident in the IAF is investigated through a court of inquiry and remedial measures are undertaken accordingly to check their recurrence in future.

'Besides continuous and multi-faceted efforts are always underway in the IAF to enhance and upgrade flight safety,' Antony added.

However, a senior IAF official said that because it faces a shortage of fighter squadrons, the IAF cannot afford to phase out the ageing MiG-21s. If it does that, it would diminish its force level drastically.

'The main problem with MiG-21s is that they are very old and the on-board systems have become obsolete,' a highly-placed IAF official, who has flown the combat aircraft, told IANS.

The IAF, the world's fourth largest air force, currently has a fighter squadron strength of 33.5 against the sanctioned 39.

The Indian government has issued tenders for acquisition of 126 medium multi-role combat aircrafts but the acquisition has been delayed due to time consuming procedures, which include submitting of bids, technical evaluation of proposals from global military suppliers and field trials.

The first aircraft would conservatively be inducted only by 2020, according to defence ministry sources. The assessment is that the retirement of the five squadrons of MiG-21s will diminish the IAF's conventional edge over its adversaries.

The current deadline for the retirement of MiG-21s is 2011. But this is likely to be pushed back further due to the slow pace of procurement and indigenisation process.

The latest crash took place Sep 11 when a MiG-21 went down in Bathinda in Punjab, killing the pilot.

The MiG-21s, inducted in 1964, proved their worth in the 1971 war with Pakistan and again in 1999 during the Kargil conflict, also with Pakistan. The IAF inducted its first MiG-21 from the erstwhile Soviet Union five years after their induction into the Soviet Air Force. Thereafter some 450 MiG-21 jets were inducted in the IAF to bolster its strength.

The indigenous LCA (light combat aircraft) project has been marred with delays because of the inability of military research bodies to provide engines with right configuration for the aircrafts.



2009-12-08 18:10:00

Despite a pending order from the Indian Air Force (IAF) for 20 light combat aircraft (LCA), India can manufacture only eight such aircraft annually, a senior Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) official has said.

N. Shyama Rao, project director at the ADA, said Tuesday that while only eight LCA could be manufactured annually, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a public sector undertaking unit involved in the manufacture of the LCA, would undertake a massive recruitment drive in order to expand the scope of production of the fighter planes.

'Currently we can manufacture 8 aircraft per annum, which is extendable up to 12,' Rao said at a press conference at the INS Hansa, a naval base in Goa 30 km from here.

He also said that HAL in the near future could recruit nearly 500 officers to meet the challenge.

While the IAF has already ordered 20 LCA to be delivered by 2013, they are expected to order 20 more of the fighter craft which was christened Tejas by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The LCA will replace the IAF's ageing Mig 21-fleet, while the naval version of the LCA will replace the maritime force's fleet of Sea Harriers.

'Even the Indian Navy will be ordering the LCA once the ski jump trials are validated,' Air Vice Marshal Shankar Mani told reporters, adding that the naval version was still in the prototype phase.

The ski jump trials, which are compulsory for the naval version of the LCA, will enable the fighter craft to land and take off from the deck of aircraft carriers. 'After spending some initial years on shore bases, the LCAs will also be posted onboard the Gorshkov, once it joins the Indian fleet,' Mani said.

He said addition of the LCA to the IAF fleet would help close the gap between the subsonic Kiran aircraft and the supersonic Mig 21.

Armed with air to air, air to ground missiles and a bomb carrying a 1,000 pound payload, the LCA, which clocked in excess of 1,350 kmph during a trial off Goa Tuesday, is expected to cost Rs.150 crore per aircraft.

P.N. Subramanium, project director at the ADA, said the LCA represented fourth generation technology. 'The LCA is contemporary in every sense, whether it is in terms of sensors, electronic systems, technology, weaponry, etc,' he said.

The indigenously made fighter plane which has been flown by more than a dozen test pilots so far will be ready for induction into the IAF by 2010.