The Indian air force fleet of some 200 Sukhoi Su-30MKI combat jets has been grounded after a crash. (Photo: Chris Pocock)
October 23, 2014, 1:36 PM
The crash of an Indian Air Force (IAF) Sukhoi Su-30 MKI on October 14 has led to the temporary grounding of the entire fleet of some 200 jets. The IAF’s safety record is again under scrutiny, with concerns about training and maintenance being voiced unofficially.
The aircraft crashed approximately 20 km from Pune airbase, near Mumbai, after both K-36DM zero-zero ejection seats inadvertently fired. The pilots survived the ejections. “A Court of Enquiry is in progress and certain specific checks are being conducted on the aircraft,” said a Ministry of Defense (MoD) statement.
A senior former IAF maintenance officer told AIN, on condition of anonymity: “It is likely that the seat cartridge was loose, something that has happened in the past. We have a sloppy system. We don’t react to incidents and equipment failures with speed. Moreover, squadrons have expanded and skilled trained manpower is not available.”
This is the fifth crash of an Su-30MKI in the past five years. Investigators attributed previous accidents to fuel pipeline leakage during ground run, autopilot failure and design deficiencies in the fire prevention system. “It is an attitude toward safety that is missing,” said a retired senior engineer.
In the last five financial years, 50 IAF aircraft have crashed, including 11 since the start of the current fiscal year in April 2014. According to Indian MoD figures released to Parliament last March, the equivalent of one fighter squadron—16-18 aircraft—is lost every two years. Deliveries of 72 moreSu-30MKIs are to be made by 2018.