Crashes continue to plague Indian air force

Singapore
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The Indian Air Force suffered 33 fighter crashes during the last three years, resulting in 31 fatalities.

The aircraft most prone to crashes was the Mikoyan MiG-21 with 16 crashes, said defence minister A K Antony in a written response to a question raised in India's parliament.

Over the last three years, India also lost one Sepecat Jaguar, two Mirage 2000s, three Sukhoi Su-30s, as well as other types. Ten helicopters were also lost.

He attributed the majority of the accidents to human error and technical problems.

"Every Indian Air Force aircraft accident is thoroughly investigated by a court of inquiry to ascertain the cause of accident," said Antony. "Remedial measures are taken accordingly to check their recurrence in future."

The air force's two most recent crashes involved Mirage 2000 aircraft. According to Indian media reports, Dassault has sent a team to investigate both crashes, although the Indian air force and Dassault have yet to officially confirm this.

Antony added that the air force is working to improve safety and mentioned the greater use of simulators.

Separately, Antony responded to another query in parliament about the air force's planned acquisition of 75 Pilatus PC-7 MK II basic trainers, saying that "the proposal is being progressed". He said the delivery of the first aircraft will be due 15 months after the signing of the contract.

The contract announcement of the PC-7 deal has been delayed by a protest from the South Korean government about the handling of the acquisition's commercial bids - one of the tender's original competitors was the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KT-1.

The defence ministry's initial request for proposals in early 2010 called for 75 aircraft to be purchased "off-the-shelf" and an additional 106 aircraft to be built by Hindustan Aeronautics under a joint venture.

The air force needs new basic trainers urgently. The force has suffered from a major capability gap in training in recent years, with the Hindustan Aeronautics HPT-32 Deepak basic trainers grounded in July 2009 following a series of crashes.