Friday, July 17, 2009

In thin air.... update

Last month, I'd written a post about problem's India's Air Force is facing due to a high rate of crashes as well as delays in the induction of the LCA. Here is an update on the same which underlines my point

I'd written...

"The programme was conceived in 1983 with the aim to have an indigenous aircraft to replace the 'aging' Mig-21 which were the backbone of the Indian Air Force and were nearly 15 years old then. Today, 26 years later - the LCA is yet to be inducted in the IAF and the Mig-21 is still the most numerous aircraft in the IAF's inventory. Out of a total fleet of some 630 combat aircraft, more than 200 are from the Mig-21 family. Even now, it isn't yet clear when then LCA would enter active combat service. 2012 is said to be the earliest when it is likely to happen.

The reasons for the LCA's delay are many - including those related to sanctions imposed by the US following the nuclear tests carried out by the BJP Govt in 1998, which meant that the project could not use the GE404 engine as planned. However, DRDO had also started parallel work on another engine called Kaveri which has practically failed all requisite tests in the last 23 years marking it as another dud that DRDO has produced. The initial versions of the plane, whenever it goes into serial production would be powered by Eurojet or GE engines.

The LCA project has exceeded Rs 10,000 crore in development costs. In 1996, the projected cost per unit was $10-17m which went up to $24m in 2001 and now it has gone up to $35m apiece!

That beggars one simple question? Why spend a gazillion bucks out of the taxpayers pocket to develop the LCA? Wouldn't it have been better to simply buy proper new aircraft and save money and lives from being lost?"

Now read this report from

"India's homegrown Tejas light combat aircraft is unlikely to be qualified by December 2010 as currently planned, with the date for its initial operational capability likely to be postponed.

The Aeronautical Development Agency now expects to conduct the first flight of limited series production aircraft LSP-3 no sooner than September. It has yet to integrate the platform's air data and digital flight control computers, or receive final software for its Israeli-sourced multi-mode radar.

Engine issues also continue to dog the Tejas effort. The Indian air force has ordered an initial batch of 20 General Electric F404-IN20-powered examples, but needs an improved aircraft with a power output of at least 20,225lb thrust (90kN) to meet its operational requirements.

Hindustan Aeronautics plans to produce a more powerful Mk II version of the Tejas, but the air force has recently rejected a proposal under which France's Snecma would have assisted India's Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) in completing development of the troubled indigenous Kaveri powerplant. The GTRE and Snecma are challenging the decision. "

Further, I had written ....

"The Indian Air Force today is struggling to maintain its inventory - back in 2007 the Air Chief Marshal had sent out a warning about the dwindling numbers - its 2009 and nothing has been done. Today, we are less than 32 squadrons strong whereas the minimum sanctioned strength of the IAF should be 39.5 squadrons. That's about 100 aircraft less than what we should be and this does not include the number of aircraft grounded for lack of spares.

As far as I can see, the situation will not improve even the next 3-4 years. The Mig-21s won't last beyond 2012. The Tejas would not be ready in significant numbers to fill that gap, nor would there be enough Sukhoi Su-30s. The Mig-29s are ageing and so is the Mig 27 / Jaguar fleet. The MRCA is still a competition and lord knows when the first plane would be bought.

At this rate by 2012 we simply will not have enough aircraft to protect both the Chinese and Pakistani borders. The government needs to realize this soon or we'll flying without wings in thin air. The government needs to realize this soon or we'll flying without wings in thin air."

Now one comes across another report on Flightglobal which quotes Defence Minister, AK Antony. It says and I quote

"An average of one fixed-wing military aircraft crashed every month in India during the past three years, with the country's defence minister telling parliament that most of the losses were due to "human errors and technical defects".

AK Antony told legislators that 37 fixed-wing aircraft have crashed since 1 April 2006, with 19 helicopters also having been lost during the same period. Together, the incidents resulted in the deaths of 34 military personnel....

The modernisation of the Indian air force has taken on added urgency due to a spate of accidents that mainly involved the service's older Russian-made fighters. Antony said earlier this month that there have been 22 crashes involving MiG fighters since 1 April 2006.

An Indian competition to buy 126 medium multirole combat aircraft is at the field evaluation stage, and a contract is likely to be signed in the 2010-11 financial year. New Delhi had hoped to begin taking delivery of its first new aircraft from 2012, but industry sources widely expect this to slip."

I am sure the Defence Strategists in China and Pakistan must reading this situation with glee, while I can hardly fathom what our own people are up to.


Sidhu said...

Nomad, interesting information...thanks for dropping by

Sidhusaaheb said...

Never mind Pakistan and China...The lives of young pilots of the Indian Air Force are being lost needlessly because of all this.