Hindon (Ghaziabad), Feb 5 (IANS) With the Indian armed forces recording over a dozen air crashes every year, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Saturday said the induction of new aircraft and helicopters would help reduce the unfortunate accidents in the future.
The army and air force lost a Cheetah helicopter and a MiG-21 Bison fighter jet respectively in crashes this week in which two experienced army pilots were killed. Last year, the armed forces lost over a dozen aircraft, including Russian-origin MiG-21s and MiG-27s.
“Every accident, whether big aircraft or a helicopter, is unfortunate… a sad thing. We are constantly making efforts to improve systems regarding operational requirements. In spite of all, this happens,” Antony told reporters here on the sidelines of a ceremony to induct the American C-130J aircraft for special operations.
“Compared to the past, accidents are now less. But it does not give any comfort level for us. After every accident, we carry out inquiry into all of these accidents, find reasons and act on them,” he added.
Noting that IAF was in the process of speedy modernisation, the defence minister said that in the next two or three years, the IAF would induct some of the most modern equipment, fighter jets, transport aircraft and helicopters into its fleet apart from phasing out the old aircraft in its inventory.
Sharing Antony’s sentiments, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik said the faster the new aircraft are inducted, the IAF would be able to phase out the ageing ones.
“The faster the new aircraft are inducted, the faster we can phase out the old aircraft. We have already phased out oldest type of MiG-21s. Only one squadron is left now. They should also be going out by next year. The faster the ingress, the faster we can phase out the older aircraft,” he said.
The IAF at present has 33 squadrons in its fleet with aircraft ranging from Russian-origin Su-30s, French Mirage-2000, Anglo-French Jaguars, Russian MiG-29s and several ageing MiG variants such as MiG-21s and MiG-27s in the about 600-aircraft inventory.
The IAF plans to induct 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) by 2015 for which the tender process is in its last stage and could be awarded to one of the six contenders anytime this year.
Among the aircraft in the race for the $104-billion contract for MMRCA are American Boeing’s F/A-18 and Lockheed Martin’s F-16, French Dassault’s Rafale, European consortium EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon, Swedish SAAB’s Gripen and Russian MiG-RAC’s MIG-35.
India has also signed an agreement for joint development of a fifth generation fighter aircraft with the Russians, about 250 to 300 of which are expected to join the force by 2017.
The IAF’s fleet strength is expected to go up to 42 squadrons by 2022, but before that it would phase out the MiG-21s and the MiG-27, which constitute a majority of the existing squadron strength.