Why the Indian Air Force has a high crash rate

Discussion in 'Indian Air Force' started by sherkhan, Jun 4, 2015.

  1. sherkhan

    sherkhan Regular Member

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    The IAF’s fleet strength is currently down to 34 squadrons or around 600 warplanes. Source: AP
    More than 200 Sukhoi Flankers currently form the core of the Indian Air Force’s strike element, for a planned force of over 272 Su-30 fighter-bombers. India received the initial batch of Sukhois in 2002. The first of these aircraft crashed in 2009, and since then five more have crashed.

    Now let’s look at the Sukhois in other air forces.

    The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has 150 Flankers of Russian origin and 229 Chinese knockoffs. That’s a total of 379 aircraft, for an eventual figure of 400 Russian made Flankers, derivatives and illegal copies. And yet the PLAAF has lost fewer Sukhoi in crashes. Are the Chinese Sukhois better maintained, better built or are Chinese pilots simply playing it safe? More on that in a moment.

    The Russian Air Force has a total of 438 Flankers. Again, the Russian Sukhois don’t tumble out of the air at a rate close to the IAF’s. Similarly, there have been no reports of Flankers of the Vietnamese and Indonesian air forces being involved in crashes.


    The IAF calls the Su-30 its “air dominance” fighter for a good reason. The arrival of the Sukhoi has decisively tilted the balance of power in favour of the IAF in the region. The Flanker’s super-maneuverability, its armoury of advanced beyond visual range missiles and extraordinary range of 3000 km (extendable to 8000 km with aerial refuelling) are aspects that make it the wolf of the skies.Why the Flanker force matters

    The Su-30 is also equipped with synthetic aperture radar (SAR), which gives it greater long-range reconnaissance capabilities. Armed with the SAR pod, the IAF Sukhois are known to engage in aggressive patrols along the China-India and India-Pakistan borders.

    Considering the Flanker’s hunter killer reputation, anyone who questions its capability is clearly living under a rock.

    So what explains the loss of six IAF Flankers in crashes? Let’s go into the various probable causes and also dissect the theories floating out there.

    Crash No.1: 30 April 2009

    The first ever Su-30MKI crashes in the Pokhran region, Rajasthan. The IAF’s Court of Inquiry establishes Wing Commander Vishwas Munje mistakenly switched off the warplane’s fly-by-wire system.

    Crash No.2: 30 November 2009

    Sukhoi crashes near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, after a fire warning. An IAF investigation attributes it to accidental ingestion of a foreign object in the engine intake.

    Crash No.3: 13 December 2011

    Aircraft crashes 20 km from Pune. IAF says the crash is due to a malfunction in the fly-by-wire system.

    Crash No.4: 19 February 2013

    Aircraft’s right wing explodes over Pokhran, shortly after completing a training mission.

    Crash No.5: 14 October 2013

    Fly-by-wire system malfunctions yet again and the Sukhoi goes down near Pune. Russian experts blame pilot error but the IAF says the Court of Inquiry is yet to pinpoint exact reason.

    Crash No.6: 19 May 2015

    Su-30MKI flying from Tezpur in Assam develops a technical snag and the pilot is forced to abandon the aircraft. Cause is yet to be established.

    Now that you have a good idea of what exactly happened in those six crashes, let’s look at the possible reasons why jet fighters crash in India.

    Possible reason No.1: Intense training

    The IAF is one of the few air forces in the world that conduct intense, year-round training. Benjamin Lambeth of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says the IAF trains for a "high intensity, high stakes" conflict. Keeping in mind the possibility of a two-front war, the IAF puts its pilots and aircraft through the wringer.

    Mock air combat can involve hundreds of aircraft flying thousands of kilometres. During such a war game in 2013, Sukhois flew 1800-km bombing missions from Chabua in Assam to the western front, with mid-air refuelling. In fact, IAF pilots are known to lead missions over 10 hours in their Sukhois.

    Such training places a great deal of stress on aircraft, pilots and air crews, which means potentially more accidents. But that’s the way the IAF trains for war. In fact, a former air force chief has gone on record that he would rather lose pilots during training than during war.

    The strategy has been amply rewarded. In the 1971 War, for instance, the IAF was able to conduct a wide range of missions – troop support; air combat; deep penetration strikes; para-dropping behind enemy lines; feints to draw enemy fighters away from the actual target; bombing; and reconnaissance.

    In contrast, the Pakistan Air Force, which was solely focused on air combat, was blown out of the subcontinent’s skies within the first week of the war. Those PAF aircraft that survived took refuge at Iranian air bases or in concrete bunkers, refusing to offer a fight.

    Similarly, the PLAAF has nearly 2,000 planes, but only a fraction of the peace-time accident rate. According to Foreign Policy, this suggests Chinese pilots are not spending sufficient time in the air or training under pressure. “(Chinese) pilots are neither trusted nor properly trained. Drills are regimented, centrally controlled, and divorced from realistic combat conditions.”



    Possible reason No.2: Harsh environment Thankfully, the IAF does not believe in having robots but values superior training and innovativeness. IAF pilots have truly internalised what Sergei Dolgushin, a Russian Air Force ace with 24 victories in WWII, said is a prerequisite to be a successful fighter pilot: “A love of hunting, a great desire to be the top dog”.

    Harsh is normal in India. Tropical India is an unforgiving environment for any aircraft. The hot air means aircraft engines produce less thrust and the wing produce less lift compared to similar aircraft flying in European skies. Sun baked runways are also known to impact landing safety. These are factors IAF pilots have to live with.

    Bird hits are another huge factor in aircraft accidents over India. The IAFattributes around 10 per cent of accidents to bird hits. Most IAF bases are located near populated areas, where birds are a constant menace.

    The situation has got so dire that the IAF last year issued global bids to four companies for 45 bird detection and monitoring radar systems to be installed at airports and air bases across India.

    Possible reason No.3: Missing trainers

    According to figures released by the Ministry of Defence in March 2013, the IAF was losing the equivalent of one fighter squadron (approximately 18 fighters) in accidents every two years. This was primarily because of the lack of adequate number of trainers.

    Rookie fighter pilots begin on basic trainers, then move on to intermediate jet trainers (IJTs) before finally graduating to advanced jet trainers (AJTs). These three stages are critical elements of fighter pilot training and any shortcuts will certainly lead to disaster.

    But what was happening was that in the absence of an AJT, rookie pilots were moving straight from the IJT to frontline warplanes such as the MiG-21. The upshot – young pilots died at an alarming rate.

    With the induction of the Swiss Pilatus basic trainer and Hawk AJT from Britain, the crashes have come down – but not stopped.

    Possible reason No.4: Shoddy maintenance

    India is notorious for its ‘chalta hai’ or ‘it’ll be alright’ attitude. In this backdrop, shoddy maintenance could well be a factor. Although the IAF is known for its high standards, those standards are largely of its pilots; maintenance crews may not share that quality. Of late, there have been a number of incidents reported widely in the media about IAF ground crew involved in all sorts of serious crimes. The IAF should look at establishing an elite division of ground crews to service its high-end aircraft.

    Possible reason No.5: Depleted air force

    The IAF’s fleet strength is currently down to 34 squadrons or around 600 warplanes. The sanctioned number is 42 squadrons. In a country as vast as India, with multiple threats, such depletion in fighter aircraft means fewer aircraft have to perform more missions to get the same job done. It also means less down time in maintenance hangars. This is where India quickly needs to induct more locally built Tejas interceptors and more locally assembled Su-30s.

    Silver lining

    The good news is that aircraft crashes in the IAF have shown a declining trend over the last three years. From a high of 30 in fiscal 2011-12, theydeclined to six in 2012-13 and an equal number in 2013-14.


    During a visit to Bangalore in December, IAF chief ACM Arup Raha said: “Budgets remain a constraint, especially the revenue budget, to maintain spares for the aircraft to maintain high operational readiness.”The IAF is now looking to improve overall fleet serviceability. The air force recently told a parliamentary committee that fleet-wide serviceability stood at 60-65 per cent, but could be increased to 77-80 per cent, provided spares were made available.

    While the IAF is clearly doing its best under the circumstances, it needs to do better. Bringing the crash rate down to US or European air force levels should be the goal. Losing a Sukhoi each year is akin to burning Rs 350 crore in cash.
     
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  3. Blackwater

    Blackwater Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Lack of good trainers, useless and corrupt HAL and lack of audit and close eye on modern west tech
     
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  4. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    useless and corrupt HAL ?
    lack of audit ?
    close eye on modern west tech?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 5, 2015
  5. SREEKAR

    SREEKAR Senior Member Senior Member

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    Well that is the fact...
    HAL is very lazy
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 5, 2015
  6. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    You do not want to be another Bakra on the line ...
     
  7. indiatester

    indiatester Regular Member

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    I don't like the authors assertion that IAF may be training more than the other air forces.

    Regarding quality itself, evaluation must be done on
    1) What sort of quality control activities are done at HAL. It must involve extensive checks/repetitions of IAF pilot practices
    2) IAF must also have a acceptance tests for aircraft they induct
    3) Pre flight checks must be extensive and thorough. I'm sure they are, but they may have to recheck that routine.
    4) What sorts of diagnostics are available on the aircraft itself so that the root cause can be quickly identified. This court of inquiry should have definitive answers that way.
     
  8. SREEKAR

    SREEKAR Senior Member Senior Member

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    oh no I am not bakra..
    but plz tell me how many aircrafts does our HAL roll out anually?
     
  9. sob

    sob Moderator Moderator

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    @sherkhan Avery good article written by you.
    @Yusuf can this be on the front page.

    Coming back to the topic, yes we can blame HAL for not maintaining enough spare, we can blame Russians for sub standard spares---- Remember many factories of erstwhile USSR are out of Russia and building new plants is not easy.

    There have been reports on the huge flying hours of IAF pilots compared to other Air Forces. If we can get some comparative figures that would be a big help.

    And last let us not discount the maintenance practices of IAF. I am sure IAF must be working on it along with HAL because the accident rate has come down, so some corrective steps have been taken.
     
  10. angeldude13

    angeldude13 Lestat De Lioncourt Senior Member

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    Bhai bhatija waad in Tri services is a lot more responsible.
     
  11. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    @sob yes worth putting on front page. Unfortunately there are issues to post there. That's why I haven't put 4 of my articles up there

    @LurkerBaba @Daredevil
     
  12. SajeevJino

    SajeevJino Long walk Elite Member

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    .

    Had a Chat with Navy Guy, How they maintaining log book without conducting proper Checks and Maintenance, also he mentions why Navy Subs and Ships always stick in the port,

    We also suspect the same in Air force too ..poor Maintenance, spare part issue, no proper service engineers and more
     
  13. angeldude13

    angeldude13 Lestat De Lioncourt Senior Member

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    Lack of discipline in IAF.
    Bhai bhatijawad.
    And bogus victorian era laws.
     
  14. no smoking

    no smoking Senior Member Senior Member

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    Some Chinese military experts listed the causes:
    1. lack the appropriate trainer
    2. great maintenance pressure
    3. The poor working quality of HAL
     
  15. indiatester

    indiatester Regular Member

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    Question: Is the maintenance of the aircraft the responsibility of IAF or should HAL be held accountable?
     
  16. SajeevJino

    SajeevJino Long walk Elite Member

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    like HAL has subcontractors, those subcontractors has another subcontractor that subcontractor, those inexperienced Engineers take over the issue.

    HAL signs the Report without verifying it.. like bribe already credited in same manner
     
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  17. indiatester

    indiatester Regular Member

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    Hmm... so it all boils down to lack of quality control.
    Shouldn't IAF itself have its own maintenance crew that will take care of day to day running?
     
  18. SajeevJino

    SajeevJino Long walk Elite Member

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    That maintenance can be done by IAF ground crew. But I'm talking about Scheduled Service and Major repairs
     
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  19. saipaimai

    saipaimai New Member

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    Said that as China is not so!:drool:
     
  20. sob

    sob Moderator Moderator

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    @saipaimai welcome to DFI.

    Please be kind enough to introduce yourself here and share a bit more about yourself.--http://defenceforumindia.com/forum/s/introductions-greetings.5/
     
  21. saipaimai

    saipaimai New Member

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    I don't know much.haha。。。。。。。。。。。。。
     

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