The Indian government has directed the Air Force to review and modify its training procedures following a rapid rise in combat aircraft crashes attributed to human error.
The Defence Ministry on Dec. 20 directed the Air Force to make drastic training changes that could significantly reduce the number of crashes, a senior ministry official said.
The Defence Ministry’s concerns are based on a recent Indian Air Force report that confirms the service in the last three years has lost 54 combat aircraft and 22 pilots in crashes, the official said. The report, which was submitted in the last two weeks, blames the majority of these crashes on the service’s lack of advanced jet trainer (AJT) aircraft. The human errors that resulted in the crashes of 23 Air Force planes might have been avoided, according to the report, if the service had AJTs to help pilots prepare for flying in normal and adverse conditions before they take to the skies in real combat aircraft.
The official said the Defence Ministry also directed the Air Force to reexamine pilot training for certain maneuvers, especially night flying.
The Indian Air Force has lost three Mirage 2000-H aircraft, eight Jaguars and 43 MiG variants to air crashes in the last three years.
However, a senior Air Force official said Dec.20 that the high crash rate also must be blamed on aircraft maintenance problems and technical and manufacturing defects.
He acknowledged the high crash rate is a matter of “great concern, but unless advanced trainers are inducted, the [accident] rate cannot be reduced.” The Air Force is likely to receive 24 Hawk 115 Y AJTs in late 2006.
After several years of negotiations, India on March 26 signed a $1.24 billion Hawk AJT deal with London-based BAE SYSTEMS. The terms call for BAE to supply India with 24 Hawk-115 Y aircraft in flying condition, with an additional 42 to be built under license from BAE at state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.