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IAF lost 18 MiGs in last two years

A file photo of a MiG crash on November 12 in Tinsukhia district of Assam. PTI photo

NEW DELHI (BNS): The Indian Air Force has lost 18 MiG series fighter aircraft in accidents in the last two years despite claims that the number of crashes have come down.

India's Defence Minister A K Antony informed Parliament on Monday that two pilots were killed in the 18 accidents involving MiGs. The minister outlined a mixed bag of reasons for the crashes. While some were attributed to human error, technical defects also played a role in others. There were some incidents of bird hits as well.

The IAF came under pressure as it suffered poor flight safety record after a series of MiG-21 crashes until five years ago. IAF flies different variants of MiGs. Out of these MiG-21 became notorious for its high crash rate and was even dubbed as 'flying coffin.'

An extensive overhaul was carried out on more than 30-year-old aircraft and at the moment the IAF flies its new variant called MiG-21 Bison. The aircraft was fitted with modern avionics and radars increasing its lifespan. At least 100 MiG-21 Bisons are in the service and have a better flight safety record than other variants.

But in the last two years other variants of MiGs have crashed from MiG-27s to MiG-23s and MiG-29s. The minister said measures to enhance the quality of training to improve the skill levels was being undertaken.

The IAF is also in touch with the Original Equipment Manufacturers to solve the mechanical and technical problems. In several cases help of manufacturers is required to rectify any defects in the design of the aircraft.

Bird Hits continue to worry IAF. Most of the airbases now are located close to inhabited areas as the towns and cities have grown in size over the years.

IAF officials claim that flight safety record has improved in the last couple of years. But the figures this year has not been encouraging. At least half a dozen aircraft have crashed till December 2008.

The IAF has now inducted Hawk Advanced Jet trainers for improving the skills of pilots. The training on Hawks has started and the first batch would soon qualify to join the squadrons. It is hoped that an advanced jet trainer will have an impact on how the young pilots handle sophisticated modern jets.

Bringing down the accident rate is one of the top priorities of the IAF as it pays a huge price for every accident. Apart from losing expensive aircraft, the IAF has to pay for any damage caused to life or property. In the 18 accidents reported in the last two years, the government paid compensation of Rs 12, 10,709, the Parliament was told.

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