In just over 5 years, 55 lives lost in 50 military aviation crashes

NEW DELHI: Just as the armed forces grapple with the fourth major accident of the relatively new indigenous ‘Dhruv’ advanced light helicopters (ALH) in six months, yet another MiG-21 fighter crashed on Monday, reinforcing the disturbingly high crash rate in military aviation in the country.
Around 55 military personnel have lost their lives in over 50 aircraft and helicopter accidents in just over five years. The old MiG-21 jets as well as the Cheetah/Chetak helicopters have recorded an alarming crash record over the years.
“Both MiG-21s and Cheetah/Chetak helicopters, which are single-engine machines of the design vintage of the 1960s, have long outlived their operational utility. But what can the armed forces do in the absence of new inductions?” a senior officer, who did not want to be named, told TOI on Monday.
Old highly-demanding flying machines that lack modern avionics and inherent safety features, inadequate training and supervision of pilots as well as technicians, poor maintenance and overhaul practices, and lack of quality control on spares, all lead to the unacceptable high crash rate.
Successive reports have held that “human errors (pilots/technical crew)” and “technical defects” are responsible for around 90% of the crashes, with “bird strikes” and other reasons making up the rest.
Experts say a much more robust system of checks and balances, with corrective and stringent action being taken after accountability is properly fixed, is desperately needed at the earliest.
“The outlook seems grim with the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war showing no signs of ending, domestic capacity not rising to fill the voids and dwindling number of squadrons mounting pressure on ageing fleets,” former naval aviator and test pilot Commander K P Sanjeev Kumar (Retd) told TOI.
“Hopefully, things don’t go further south. Both quality and quantity of future orders must be stepped up before more crashes snatch away precious lives,” he added.
The armed forces have been demanding 498 new light utility helicopters for over two decades to replace their obsolete Cheetah and Chetak fleets. But their replacements are still to emerge out of the doldrums. IAF is forced to fly the Soviet-origin MiG-21s, which were the first truly supersonic fighters to be inducted by IAF in 1963 and underwent upgrades in later years, because of the huge delays in new inductions, especially the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft.

The Open Magazine of India by Artmotion Network (

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