In the backdrop of over a dozen inquiries into air crashes pending, Defence Minister A K Antony on Monday directed the top brass of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to quickly complete outstanding inquiries to minimise the possibility of future accidents.
The issue of air crashes came up at the Parliament’s Defence Consultative Committee as the IAF had lost 33 combat jets in the past four years. Moreover, 12 helicopters crashed during this period. Thirty-five defence personnel, including 13 pilots, lost their lives in these crashes. Addressing a meeting of the consultative committee attached to his ministry here, Antony said even one accident was a matter of “serious concern”.
The joint committee comprising representatives of the Ministry of Defence, IAF, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and DG Acquisition has been constituted to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Court of Inquiry (CoI), he informed the committee.
“The joint committee will specially focus on category-I aircraft accidents involving those in which the aircraft is destroyed or damaged beyond economical repair, or is missing or the cost of repair, excluding damage to aero-engines exceeds 50 per cent of the total cost,” the minister added.
A one-time inspection of all helicopter detachments was also carried out in view of the fact that an unusually high number of accidents and incidents involving helicopters occur, when they are operating away from their parent base.
“These inspections resulted in highlighting several shortcomings. Action is being taken on these shortcomings on a priority basis,” Antony said.
The training standards of young fighter aircrew remain another area of concern. The IAF is procuring 75 basic trainer aircraft and the first training course on the new trainer aircraft ‘Pilatus’ will commence in July 2013.
Antony said there were plans to phase out equipment approaching redundancy and certain critical procurements had been fast-tracked. “Non-upgraded MiG-27 and MiG-21 are being phased out progressively by March 2016 and March 2018 respectively,” he said.
Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh also attended the meeting.