A Sukhoi Su-30MKI Air Superiority Fighter of the Indian Air Force
NEW DELHI: The CAG has punched several holes in the operational capabilities of IAF as well as Army Aviation Corps, ranging from poor serviceability of the country’s most modern fighters Sukhoi-30MKIs and “eyes in the sky” AWACS to the virtually obsolete Cheetah/Chetak helicopter fleets.
The audit watchdog’s stinging indictment should serve as a much-needed wake-up call for the politico-bureaucratic combine as well as armed forces to undertake long-term strategic planning to build military capabilities in a systematic and cost-effective manner, with timely decision-making and proper follow-through.
First, take the case of the only three AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) in the shape of Israeli Phalcon radars mounted on Russian IL-76 aircraft, which were inducted as potent force-multipliers in 2009-2011 under a $1.1 billion deal inked in 2004.
India’s Dwindling Air Power
The CAG report, tabled in Parliament on Friday, said the AWACS were “high value national assets” that could be “a deciding factor” during conflicts. But there was “sub-optimal utilization” of their operational capabilities in terms of “flying tasks” due to poor planning and serviceability. “On an average, there was a 43% shortfall against the established task of 1,500 flying hours per annum,” said CAG.
Similarly, the ongoing induction of Sukhoi-30MKIs — over 210 of the 272 jets contracted from Russia for over $12 billion have been inducted till now – came under attack. For one, the serviceability of Sukhois continues to be just around 55-60% (prescribed norm is at least 75%) despite the first fighter being inducted 19 years ago, as was also earlier reported by TOI.
The Sukhoi fleet suffers from a “high rate of AOG (aircraft on ground since not airworthy)” due to lack of spares and non-availability of adequate repair facilities. The jets also suffer from “frequent snags” in their fly-by-wire systems and deficient radar warning receivers, among other things.
The CAG also slammed the defence ministry’s continuing failure to replace the Cheetah/Chetak fleets -129 of the 181 helicopters are over 30 years old – which the Army Aviation Corps (AAC) uses for reconnaissance and servicing forward areas like Siachen. “AAC is plagued with 32% deficiency in its authorized fleet strength…low level of helicopter serviceability further reduces the effective operational availability to 40% of authorization,” it said.
As reported by TOI earlier, 30 military helicopters have crashed just since 2010, claiming well over 50 lives. The single-engine Cheetahs and Chetaks, which fly on technologies of the 1960s vintage, are a major concern, with a group of Army wives in March even complaining to defence minister Manohar Parrikar about their high crash rate.
The long-pending acquisition of 197 such light-utility helicopters from abroad has been scrapped thrice over the last decade due to corruption allegations and technical deviations. India and Russia are now set to ink the $1 billion project to manufacture 200 twin-engine Kamov-226T helicopters under the “Make in India” policy. But it will take a few years for the deliveries to begin.
Source: Defense News