Crash casts cloud over air show, HAL

Citizens from the neighbourhood taking photographs at the crash site, on Friday.

Citizens from the neighbourhood taking photographs at the crash site, on Friday.   | Photo Credit: the hindu

The crash of the Mirage 2000 in Bengaluru on Friday morning could not have happened at a worse time for the IAF and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL).

The incident has cast a cloud over Aero India 2019, which is due to start on February 20 at Air Force Station Yelahanka. Air safety will be on everyone's mind when the flying machines hit the skies during the five-day event, which itself has had a couple of blips in the past editions.

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa was in the city to chair the annual Training Command Commanders’ Conference. The two-day meet was being held at Headquarters Training Command, Hebbal.

The French origin Mirage 2000 was India's answer to Pakistan US-made F-16 fighter jets. It has been with the IAF since mid-1985 as its key fire power. Compared to the IAF's MiG-21s and Jaguar fighters, it has had a relatively good safety record, except for two scares. It won plaudits for its winning performance during the Kargil conflict of 1999.

For HAL, the crash of a fighter that it had newly upgraded means a loss of face again: the defence public enterprise is still smarting from the rebukes and aspersions that different quarters, customer IAF and the parent Ministry of Defence included, have heaped in the wake of the controversy over acquistion of another French fighter jet - the Rafale. The Rafale will be IAF’s newest acquisition starting September this year.

Both aircraft — the Mirage 2000 and the Rafale — are the products of France’s Dassault Aviation, which is currently fire-fighting a controversy over mode of sale of 36 Rafales to the IAF.

The fleet of some 50 Mirage aircraft is currently getting upgraded in the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. The $2.2-billion upgrade involves retro-fitting the fighters with modern avionics, computers, radars, electronic warfare suites, weapons, pilot-friendly electronic display systems, among others.

An HAL official said a few upgraded aircraft have been delivered to the IAF over the last few years, but did not specify the number. The programme is expected to be completed in a couple of years.

Back in 2012, the MoD had grounded the entire Mirage 2000 fleet for a few months after two crashed almost back to back. The pilots ejected to safety in both incidents. One fighter crashed in Bhind in Madhya Pradesh on February 24 and the other in Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan on March 5. Then Defence Minister A.K. Antony had attributed the accidents to technical defects.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 7:30:06 PM |

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