Preliminary investigations into the crash of an Indian air force Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter earlier this year indicate that the cause "is likely failure of the fly-by-wire system," says defence minister AK Antony.

"There is no indication of any serious problem in the maintenance of aircraft by the IAF [Indian air force], or any short supply of hardware as the cause of the crash," Antony told the Indian parliament's upper house.

India Su-30

© Indian air force

The Indian air force has 98 Su-30-series fighters

Antony also revealed that the air force's entire Su-30 inventory was grounded for three weeks after the incident. The 30 April crash was the first involving the type since it entered service almost 12 years ago. The aircraft's co-pilot died as a result of the mishap.

Antony says the "Su-30MKI is a modern fighter aircraft that has performed very well" for the Indian air force. The service currently has 98 Su-30 series jets, and Antony last month announced plans to expand the fleet to 230 aircraft by 2015.

India signed a $1.46 billion contract with Russia to buy 40 Su-30s in 1996, and later reached a technology transfer agreement allowing Hindustan Aeronautics to licence-produce the fighter in India. HAL is also upgrading some of the older Su-30s to the MKI standard.

It is not clear if the air force's planned additional fighters will be produced by HAL, which rolled out its first indigenous Su-30MKI in November 2004.

Source: Flight International