29 military aircraft crashed in three years aB(
New Delhi, May 9 (IANS) In a damning indictment of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), parliament was informed Wednesday that 26 of the 29 combat aircraft that crashed in the past three years had been manufactured, overhauled or upgraded by the company.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) operated all the 26 aircraft, which had 40-50 percent of their operational life left when they crashed, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.
The other three aircraft belonged to the Indian Navy, which has its own repair and maintenance facilities independent of HAL.
The IAF and the Indian Navy have ascribed the crashes to either human or technical failures.
Giving details, Antony said the IAF had lost eight MiG-21s, six Jaguars, four MiG-27s, four Mirages, three MiG-29s, and one Bison - an upgraded version of the MiG-21 during 2004-05 and 2006-07.
The Indian Navy lost three Sea Harriers during this period.
During 1992-2004, Antony said, HAL had manufactured two MiG-21s and overhauled eight, of which eight had crashed. In addition, the company had overhauled a Bison and upgraded another, of which one crashed.
In the case of the Jaguars, the company had manufactured three and overhauled five, of which six crashed.
In the case of the Mirages, HAL had overhauled four, all of which had crashed.
In the case of the MiG-27, HAL had manufactured three and overhauled a similar number, of which four crashed. `
As for the MiG-29, HAL had overhauled three, all of which crashed.
Of the 29 crashes, 13 had occurred in 2004-05, and eight each in the subsequent two years.
Parliament's Standing Committee on Defence, in a report tabled last month, had commented adversely on the depleting squadron strength of the IAF, calling for immediate acquisitions and upgrades.
"The committee feels that most of the aircraft in the inventory of the air force are quite old and, therefore, require immediate replacement. The committee also feels the upgradation programme of the air force which is a continuous process is proceeding at a very slow pace," it had said.
"On the other hand, there has been under utilisation of funds allocated for the purpose during the last financial year 2006-07.
"In view of this, the committee strongly recommended that the ministry should take immediate steps for the ongoing acquisition and upgradation programme by utilising the entire funds allocated for the current year.
The IAF that had in 2001 projected its requirement for 126 multi-role combat aircraft to ramp up its squadron levels and hopes to float a global tender in next two months.