Saturday, March 09, 2019

Crashes, aircraft losses turn FY costly for Indian Air Force

New Delhi: A series of crashes and aircraft losses,eight of them in the last two months alone have made this financial year costly for the Indian Air Force (IAF). A double whammy given that its allocated capital acquisition budget is not even adequate to pay for committed liabilities on past purchases of equipment.
The air force has lost 16 aircraft in the financial year – ranging from helicopters to combat jets and trainers – to varying incidents that marks it as a low on the safety front. Two of these losses are combat-related, the MiG 21 Bison and the Mi 17 V5 that went down on February 27, while the rest have occurred during routine missions.
Given its depleting squadron strength - it is expected to dip below 30 this year against the sanctioned 42 – the losses hit especially hard as replacements take years to come, if at all given the budgetary allocation and prolonged period of procurements.
The losses include two each of the MiG 21 Bisons, Jaguars and MiG 27s besides the unfortunate Mirage 2000 crash in February during acceptance trials in which two pilots perished.
On the budgetary side, the air force has committed liabilities in the 2019-2020 financial year – part payments due for procurements like the Rafale fighter jets that have already been made - to the tune of Rs 47,000 crore. Against this, the air force has been allocated just over Rs 39,000 crore, which cannot cater for replacements unless there is a mid-year augmentation of funds. Parliamentary data shows that in the three financial years between 2014-15 and 2016-17, a total of 35 defence aircraft, including 11 helicopters were lost to accidents.
09/03/19 Manu Pubby/Economic Times