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Indian Navy’s air combat capabilities weak: CAG

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NEW DELHI (PTI): India's naval air combat capabilities are quite weak with aircraft carrier INS Viraat on the verge of retirement and naval fighter aircraft fleet all but depleted, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said on Tuesday.

In its latest report presented to Parliament, the CAG said due to its age and maintenance requirements, Viraat, the only carrier that India operates at the moment, was unavailable from March 2008 to August 2009 on account of special refit and repairs to extend its life till 2012.

"As a result, the Navy was without an aircraft carrier in operation for a significant length of time. More importantly, for INS Viraat to be effective, it has to possess a quality strike force, which it does not," the report said, asking the Defence Ministry and the Navy to speed up its acquisition process.

The report noted that the Sea Harrier fighter aircraft, the Navy's only combat aircraft till last year, were procured (about 30 of them) between 1979 and 1986 to be deployed on INS Viraat.

"During the audit period, on an average, only 42 per cent of the aircraft fleet was available with the squadron. The total inventory itself has depleted. Eight accidents took place in the combat aircraft fleet during the audit period. As of December 2009, 65 per cent of the Sea Harriers acquired had either crashed or been rendered ineffective," the report said.

It also noted that the aircraft had an alarming number of 18 accidents that were not of major nature during the audit period.

The high rate of accidents were stated to be due to pilot error or material failure.

Although the Navy had received four MiG-29s aircraft in December 2009, these are meant for INS Vikramaditya that was originally the Russian Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier that would join the Indian Navy fleet in late 2012.

"Weak operational capabilities were also reflected in the performance of existing avionics (of Sea Harriers), namely the fire control radar, which was unsatisfactory," the report said.

Also, the missiles on board the aircraft had not been fired for practise since 2003 and the bombs required to be carried by the aircraft too were obsolete since 2007. That apart, there had been minimum utilisation of the 30 mm guns on board the aircraft, the CAG report noted.

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Navy  India  
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