Thursday, January 22, 2009

Indian Air Force bird down again

Nabha Sparsham Deeptam (Touch the Sky with Glory) well that's the moto of the Indian Air Force but the pilots seem to be touching fire everywhere. The recent crash of a Surya Kiran in Bidar, Karnataka is another addition to the list of air crashes which have become synonymous with the IAF. These crashes which destroy planes and take away the lives of the pilots are happening too often to be ignored..

The Indian Air Force is currently struggling with its ageing fleet of fighter and transport aircrafts. Moves to induct new aircrafts and air defence equipments have been caught in red-tapism. The delay in the development of the ingeniousness LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) has meant that the outdated aircrafts have been regularly overhauled to extend their service life.

The Air Force has lost 169 aircraft in in the six major operations starting for the 48 Kashmir war, the 62 Chinese war, 65 Indo-Pak war, 71 Bangladesh liberation, the 87 IPKF operation in Sri Lanka and the 99 Kargil conflict. But during peace time we have lost more that 600 planes. If the figures of last two decades are pulled up its a worrying 400 planes that have hit the ground.

In many cases pilot error has been said to be the reason behind the crashes. True, but does that mean that our pilots are not good enough? The answer is a straight No. The reason for most of the crashes has been out faulty training process. The delay in the procurement of AJT (Advanced Jet Trainers) has meant that the pilots are trained on sub-sonic aircrafts and are made to fly super-sonic jets.

To put into perspective the Kiran aircrafts that the pilots train on has a maximum speed of 695 kmph where as MiG 21 has a whopping top speed of 2230 kmph. This jump from one level to another is what many a times results in human error. An ex fighter pilot once said its life joining a PhD right after passing out the intermediate examination.

The bulk of our fighter squadrons is formed by the third generation MiG-21s infamously called the 'Flying Coffins'. Indian Air Force holds the dubious distinction of crashing more than 500 MiGs since they were inducted into service in 60s. Such is the situation that of the 40 squadrons that the Air Force currently has most of them have 60% of the number of planes sanctioned to them.

Air warfare is more about technology than raw courage and in this day and age bulk our Air Force is using outdated machines. In this situation where we are thinking about surgical strikes against the enemy having only two squadrons if Sukhoi- MKI 30 is not enough. After all in a war like situation we cannot just bank on 70 jets even if they are technologically better than our enemy.


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