NEW DELHI - The Indian Air Force suffered further fleet depletion with the loss of two aircraft within a week. The latest crash involved a British Jaguar on Aug. 5; a Russian-made MiG-21 went down Aug. 2.
In 2010, 10 Air Force aircraft crashes occurred, including four MiG-27s and two MiG-21s.
A senior Air Force official said nearly 500 MiG variant aircraft, mostly MiG-21 combat aircraft, have been lost since they were bought from the former Soviet Union. The official attributed nearly 40 percent of the crashes to human error, saying pilot training schedules have been disrupted because there are no advance jet trainers and there is a shortage of basic trainers.
The Defence Ministry has contracted with BAE Systems to buy its Hawk advance jet trainers.
All the basic trainers have been grounded for over a year due to technical snags, and the replacements have yet to come in. In June, the Defence Ministry selected the Swiss Pilatus PC-7 to replace its basic trainers. However, no contract has been inked, Defence Ministry sources said. In July 2010, all of the 140 basic trainers, called Deepak trainers, were grounded for technical problems with the engines.
Deepak trainers form Stage 1 of the pilots' training schedule. The Air Force official said that even the Stage 2 trainer, the Kiran, is obsolete and needs replacement. The homemade Intermediate Jet Trainer is three years behind schedule.
"Delays in procurement of trainer aircraft, lack of spares and technical snags are the major reasons for the crash of IAF aircraft," said Bhim Singh, retired Indian Air Force wing commander.