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'IAF facing critical shortages'

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Indian Air Force is facing "critical deficiency" of trainer aircraft and simulators, fighter squadrons are depleting and some airfields do not have certain landing facilities, a Parliamentary panel has been informed.

The IAF has 34 fighter squadrons against the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons and the number is likely to reduce further to 31 during the 12th plan period, the parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence was told during a recent presentation by top officials of IAF and the Defence Ministry.

The number of fighter aircraft due for retirement after completion of their technical life far exceeds the rate at which their replacements can be inducted in the IAF, the officials said.

The different variants of MiG-21s and MiG-27s are being phased out during the 12th and 13th plan period and these are planned to be replaced with Su-30 MKI, medium multi-role combat aircraft, Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and fifth generation fighter aircraft.

They noted that it was "very much apparent" that the induction process has not been commensurate with the de-induction exercise.

With regard to trainer planes, the Committee was told that IAF has requirement of 181 Basic Trainer Aircraft (BTA), 85 Intermediate Jet Trainers (IJT) and 106 Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT).

The IAF does not have a Basic Trainer Aircraft as HPT-32 fleet has been grounded after a fatal accident on July 31, 2009.

The Committee was told that Kiran aircraft are presently being used for training of pilots at stage-I, fighter pilots at stage-II and under trainee flying instructors.

Out of 434 HPT-32, Kiran and Hawks trainer aircraft inducted, 255 are presently available, the presentation said.

Except Hawks, the remaining training aircraft are very old. HPT-32 has life of 28 years and Kiran has already completed 39 years of life.

"The scenario reveals critical deficiency of the trainer aircraft," it was noted at the Committee.

The IAF also has critical shortage of simulators as well.

Out of 46 simulators, 16 are not operational due to grounding or undergoing phasing out process which leaves availability of just 30 simulators.

"The critical deficiency of trainer aircraft and simulators to some extent is responsible for not adequate emphasis on training and leading to accidents of aircraft in the Air Force," the Committee was told.

There were 11 accidents in 2007-08, 13 in 2008-09, 14 in 2009-10, 14 in 2010-11 and 12 in 2011-12.

The Ministry has said that technical defect was responsible for 37.7 per cent of the accidents.

It was also pointed out that out of 52 air operational fields, 10 air fields did not have static electrical airfield lighting system (AFLS).

The Committee, during the examination of Demands for Grants of previous year, had been apprised that out of 52 operational airbases, eight do not have electrical airfield lighting and regular night operations are not undertaken from these places.

The Committee in its 12th report had strongly recommended that in all the future projects, the conditions to mandatorily share information with regard to accidents and helping in case of technical defects should be in built in the agreement itself.

The Committee had also recommended that Air Force should try to gather the information about accidents of various types of aircraft through our intelligence mechanism so that a comparative study can be made which would definitely help the country in taking corrective action to check the rate of accidents.

The action taken notes furnished by the Ministry have not addressed the aforesaid issues, it noted.


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