Depleting squadron strength of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been a cause for worry, but 26 fighters going down in last five years killing 12 pilots and seven other crew members, has added to the dwindling numbers.
IAF’s crash report card of the last five years shows that seven fighters each were lost in 2014-15 and 2018-19 and another six in 2016-17. Two years — 2015-16 and 2017-18 — were by far the best years in recent times. In 2015-16, four aircraft were lost and only two accidents took place in 2017-18.
A fighter squadron contains around 20 aircraft.
A dozen pilots also lost their lives in these accidents up to 2019. The total loss of lives in these accidents, however, is 46 as seven aircrew and 27 service personnel also died in crashes.
If the crashes involving helicopters, trainers and transporters are included then the losses go up to 37, according to the crash details shared by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the Parliament.
A breakdown of numbers show, six helicopters, nine trainers and three transport aircraft were lost.
This year alone has seen number of accidents including mid-air collision of two Hawk jet trainers in Bengaluru apart from a Jaguar and a Mirage-2000.
The number of crashes shared by the government does not include the Mi-17 helicopter crash in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam in April killing six people. Initial reports suggest the helicopter was shot down by own air defense missile at the height of air battle between India and Pakistan after the Balakot strike by IAF on terror camps.
The IAF is down to 30 from 42, which has been a major worry for many years.
The process for induction of 36 French Rafale jets will start from September when the IAF pilots will get the first of the planes which will be brought to India after training in 2020. The IAF is coping with an ageing fleet but high rate of crashes puts a question mark on the training aspects as well.
2014 was a horror year for the Indian Air Force
On March 28 2014, the second C-130J Super Hercules in a two aircraft formation fell out of the sky and crashed on a river bank in central India.
Among the five men killed in the crash were the squadron’s second-in-command and a trainee pilot who was being supervised on low-level manoeuvres.
The C-130J that crashed was one of six aircraft that the IAF began inducting in 2011 on a $1.1-billion deal signed in 2008. The aircraft are based at the Hindon station right outside the country’s capital.
On 27 May – An Indian Air Force MiG-21 crashed outside Bijbehara in Jammu and Kashmir, killing the pilot.
During 1 August the Indian Air Force SEPECAT Jaguar aircraft crashed in Pune. Pilot ejected safely.