June 16, 2010
OPERATIONS NEW DELHI — The Indian air force’s safety woes continued June 15 with the crash of a MiG-21, marking the third loss of a combat fighter this year.
The MiG-21 (Type 96) was flying near Pathankot when it crashed at around 11.25 a.m. Indian Standard Time due to what air force officials believe was a hydraulic failure.
The IAF also lost a MiG-27 and MiG-21 in February. The MiG-27 crash briefly led to the grounding of that fleet.
The IAF says the pilot ejected safely and no ground property was damaged.
Last year, the IAF suffered 11 crashes, including five MiG-21s. More broadly, the IAF has suffered a wave of MiG-21 crashes and other losses. During the past three years, 21 Mikoyan-built fighters have been lost by the service, killing four personnel.
Sixty-one aircraft and helicopters of various types have crashed in the last four years, and 28 pilots have died. Of these, 48.3% of the IAF accidents were blamed on technical defects, 37.9% on human error, and 8.6% linked to bird strikes.
The safety record has raised questions in India. Defense Minister A.K. Antony recently responded to concerns in Parliament, saying that “maintenance of the MiG series fleet is based on the maintenance philosophy prescribed by the Original Equipment Manufacturer as given in the maintenance manuals ... The spare parts
of MiG series aircraft are procured through Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. and indigenous vendors ensure adequate quality control. The trainees are undergoing full stipulated duration training in their flying courses.”
Aircraft replacement is based on operational requirements of the service, which are reviewed from time to time, Antony noted.