MiG crash amounts to three squadrons in past few years
The plane crash at Lohegaon airbase, near
Pune, on Tuesday evening, which snuffed out the life of one of India's ace fighter
pilots, Air Commodore C D Chandrashekhar, was the second crash
involving a MiG-29 since the induction of the top-of-the-line
Russian multirole fighter jets into the Indian air force in
According to defence sources in New Delhi, the fighter warplane, which
crashed while landing at the airbase, is not of an old vintage and
some of its peers were inducted into the IAF recently as in 1993. They form the frontline aircraft of the air arm of the country's
The first crash involving a MiG-29 jet took place in 1993.
Air Commodore Chandrashekhar, who had 5,600 hours of accident-free
flying to his credit, had taken over as Air Officer Commanding (AOC)
of the Lohegaon airbase in May 1995 and was on a routine sortie. A
court of inquiry has been ordered into the cause of the accident.
This is the second accident involving an IAF aircraft in just
a month. Recently an IAF Avro had crashed near Nellore in Andhra
Pradesh, killing all 22 people, including the crew, on board.
Air Commodore Chandrashekhar was an alumni of the National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakvasla and had joined the IAF in 1964.
He had also been awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) for
distinguished service of a very high order and decorated with the
Vayu Sena Medal for gallantry.
Air Commodore Chandrashekhar (50) leaves behind his wife and a
Going by its vintage, the crashed fighter aircraft would be
costing around Rs 400 million.
Air Commodore Chandrashekhar had the experience of flying a
variety of aircraft in the inventory of the IAF and had held
important command and staff appointments.
The highly-decorated officer had commanded a MiG squadron at a
flying station before taking charge of the airbase at Lohegaon near
He was also mentioned in despatches in the Indo-Pak wars.
There has been a lot of concern in the country with regard to
the accident rate in the IAF.
In its first report to the eleventh Lok Sabha, the Standing
Committee on Defence has expressed its ''deep concern'' about the
frequent occurrences of accidents involving IAF aircraft resulting in largescale losses.
The committee advised the defence ministry to thoroughly look
into the causes of all accidents which took place in the recent
past and take remedial measures on an urgent basis, with a view to
saving precious human lives and valuable aircraft.
In this connection, the committee desired to be apprised of the
present position regarding implementation of the recommendations of
the La Fontaine Committee on Flight Safety.
During evidence, the standing committee drew attention of the
ministry of defence to the increase in the number of accidents
taking place involving the IAF aircraft.
The defence secretary had told the committee at that time that
over the last five months, eight aircraft had been lost.
The reasons attributed for the same were technical failure,
human error, bird hits, and inadequate training of pilots at Stage
The IAF is said to have lost about three squadrons in the past
couple of years and the loss in terms of money is estimated to be
in the region of Rs 5 billion.
It may be noted that for Stage 111 training of pilots, an advanced
jet trainer (AJT) is required, which the IAF does not have though its
acquisition has been on the agenda for the past decade.
Defence sources, however, categorically stated that Tuesday's
mishap had nothing whatsoever to do with Stage 111 training of IAF
pilots or the acquisition of an AJT for the force.
However, on its part the standing committee has expressed its
regret to note that the proposal mooted as far back as in 1984 for
the acquisition of an AJT was yet to materialise, causing adverse
impact on the country's defence preparedness.
The committee had desired that the government should accord high
priority to finalising an aircraft after considering
all the options available and make provisions for adequate funding
for its acquisition.
Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda recently said that the government
had as yet not taken a final decision as to which AJT had to be
purchased for the IAF. The IAF had short-listed the British Hawk
and the French Alpha jet. But of the late, the still under-production Russian AJT, the MiG-AT, had also jumped into the fray.
Defence sources have said that the purchase of the much-needed
AJT for the IAF would not be shot down in the wake of the Rs 63
billion Sukhoi-30 MK1 deal and negotiations with the shortlisted
countries were being pursued earnestly. However, firming up the contract was likely to take some time.
Even Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda had indicated that getting the
AJT for the IAF may take some time.
The AJT deal is likely to be in the range of Rs 20 billion and
the IAF is likely to go in for 66 planes (about three squadrons).
The Russian MiG-AT, fitted with a French engine and avionics, was
still not ready.
But by the time a final decision to go in for a deal is concretised, the MiG-AT could be very much in the race.
The defence ministry has been giving serious consideration to
MiG-AT as it felt that the aircraft was sound and much of the IAF
inventory was of Russian origin.