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Indian Navy grounds Sea Harrier fleet after crash

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The wreckage of Sea Harrier fighter aircraft of Indian Navy has been recovered. The aircraft had crashed in the Arabian Sea during a routine training sortie off Goa on Aug 24. The pilot ejected from the aircraft and was rescued shortly afterwards. Photo Credit: Ministry Of Defence

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Navy has grounded the entire Sea Harrier fighter jet fleet in the backdrop of one of the aircraft crashing off Goa last week, rendering its lone aircraft carrier INS Viraat without its aerial firepower.

"The Sea Harriers have been grounded following the crash that left a fighter pilot dead," Navy officials said here Tuesday.

With the grounding of the 10 Sea Harrier jump jets, INS Viraat, which got afloat at the Cochin Shipyard's dry dock after a 18-month refit a fortnight ago, may have to sail to Gulf of Aden next month without its fighters.

"We cannot operate the aircraft till the Board of Inquiry is complete and the reasons for the crash is known.

The problems identified by the probe needs to be rectified before the jump jets are airborne again," officials said.

And, the probe could take a long while as the aircraft does not have a flight data recorder and the wreckage needed to be examined minutely to arrive at the reasons for the mishap, they said.

Following a series of crashes since induction, the Navy is now left with just 10 Sea Harriers of the over 20 it had bought in mid-1980s.

The Navy had recently upgraded the aircraft to extend its service life by five years in view of the delays in DRDO and HAL coming out with the Naval version of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

The Navy plans to replace the Sea Harriers with MiG 29K, procured from Russia along with the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov in 2004. However, the MiG 29Ks are expected to join the Navy service only by the end of this year.

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