Tuesday, March 15, 2022

42 military personnel died in 45 air accidents over last 5 years: Government

New Delhi: Obsolete flying machines, shoddy maintenance and inadequate training to aircrew and ground-crew continue to exact a heavy toll in the armed forces.

At least 42 military personnel have lost their lives in 45 aircraft and helicopter accidents in just the last five years, as per the latest figures tabled by the defence ministry in Rajya Sabha on Monday. Though military aviation is inherently dangerous, this is a high crash rate by any standards.

IAF reported 29 of those accidents, Army 12 and Navy four. Of those killed, 34 were from IAF, seven Army and one Navy. The number of civilians killed in the accidents, or the military personnel injured, was not provided in the written answer.

“No increase has been noticed in the number of defence personnel to have died during such accidents during the last five years. However, during the current financial year, the number of personnel that died was more as 13 defence personnel died in one IAF helicopter crash on December 8, 2021,” junior defence minister Ajay Bhatt said.

It was actually 14 people, including chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat and his wife Madhulika, who died in the Mi-17 V5 helicopter crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on October 8.

Bhatt said “preventive and remedial measures” are given by each court of inquiry that investigates every crash, and they are immediately implemented in “letter and spirit” to prevent a recurrence.

IAF, for instance, has suggested improvements in areas like “aircraft and system improvements by means of modifications and additional checks”, additional training to aircrew and ground-crew, aircraft operating limits in certain cases and “reduction in life of aircraft and engines”.

But it is also a fact that the armed forces, especially IAF, are forced to fly obsolete helicopters like the single-engine Cheetahs and Chetaks and supersonic fighters like MiG-21s due to criminal delays in new inductions.

15/03/22 Rajat Pandit/Times of India

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