An average of one fixed-wing military aircraft crashed every month in India during the past three years, with the country's defence minister telling parliament that most of the losses were due to "human errors and technical defects".

AK Antony told legislators that 37 fixed-wing aircraft have crashed since 1 April 2006, with 19 helicopters also having been lost during the same period. Together, the incidents resulted in the deaths of 34 military personnel.

India Su-30 
The Indian air force Sukhoi Su-30 crash in April has put the spotlight back on military accidents 

"In each case of accident, an investigation is carried out and appropriate remedial actions are taken," says Antony. "A continuous and multi-faceted effort is always under way in the defence forces to enhance and upgrade flight safety.

"Measures to enhance the quality of training to improve the skill levels, ability to exercise sound judgment and situational awareness of pilots are being pursued," he adds. "Constant interaction with original equipment manufacturers, both indigenous and foreign, is also maintained to overcome the technical defects of aircraft."

Military accidents are in the spotlight again after an air force Sukhoi Su-30MKI crashed in April - the first loss involving the type since it entered service almost 12 years ago. The pilot survived, but his co-pilot died a few hours after the crash. Sukhoi officials are working with a board of inquiry looking into the accident, and the aircraft's badly damaged black box data recorder was sent to a UK company for analysis.

The modernisation of the Indian air force has taken on added urgency due to a spate of accidents that mainly involved the service's older Russian-made fighters. Antony said earlier this month that there have been 22 crashes involving MiG fighters since 1 April 2006.

An Indian competition to buy 126 medium multirole combat aircraft is at the field evaluation stage, and a contract is likely to be signed in the 2010-11 financial year. New Delhi had hoped to begin taking delivery of its first new aircraft from 2012, but industry sources widely expect this to slip.

Source: Flight International