An Indian Navy Sea Harrier fighter aircraft crashed into the Arabian Sea while returning to land from the aircraft carrier INS Viraat Aug. 24, a Navy spokesman confirmed Aug. 25.
The crash leaves the Navy with 16 of the 20 Sea Harriers it bought from the United Kingdom in 1983 at a cost of $20 million each.
Cmdr. Vinay Gerg, a Navy spokesman, told DefenseNews.com the aircraft “developed a technical snag as its Rolls-Royce engine failed in midair.”
The plane’s lone pilot bailed out safely, the Navy said. The Indian government in June approved the $100 million upgrade of 17 Sea Harriers by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), rejecting the bid of BAE SYSTEMS, London. With the lifting of U.S. sanctions against India, those upgrades should go forward as planned, another Navy official said Sep. 25.
Most of India’s Sea Harriers had been grounded due to nonavailability of spare parts during the U.S. sanctions, which ended in September 2001. Though the Sea Harriers are manufactured in Britain, parts for its avionics, radar, engine and weaponry primarily are supplied by Stratford, Conn.-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.
HAL officials said they will begin the Sea Harrier upgrades once the spares begin to arrive.
In 1999, a $200 million midlife upgrade package for the Sea Harriers was cancelled in favor of purchasing the Russian-built MiG-29 K fighter for deployment aboard the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, which India has been negotiating to acquire since 1994. The long-pending deal remains at a stalemate.