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IAF grounds Sukhoi-30 fleet after Pune crash

In this October 14, 2014 photo, residents gather near an Indian Air Force Sukhoi SU-30MKI fighter jet that crashed at Theoor village near Pune. India has grounded its entire Sukhoi-30 fleet after the crash.

In this October 14, 2014 photo, residents gather near an Indian Air Force Sukhoi SU-30MKI fighter jet that crashed at Theoor village near Pune. India has grounded its entire Sukhoi-30 fleet after the crash.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The fleet of about 200 twin-engine Su-30s would be back in air only when they are cleared by the technical review.

The latest crash >involving a Su-30MKI has thrown up disturbing questions about the safety of the combat jet that constitutes about a third of the fighter fleet of the Indian Air Force.

A Defence Ministry release said the Sukhoi fleet had been temporarily grounded, as was the procedure in such cases. “The CoI [Court of Inquiry] is in progress, and certain specific checks are being conducted on the aircraft. As and when the checks are completed and the court is satisfied, the Su-30s will be put back into flying.”

Five Sukhois have crashed over the past five years. But the October 14 crash, caused by the automatic ejection of seats as the aircraft was approaching for landing, baffles investigators. Though the sequence of events and the reasons are under investigation, an IAF statement on October 22 confirmed that the ejection system did fire when it was not required to.

A Defence Ministry release on Wednesday said: “One Su-30 fighter of the Indian Air Force was involved in an accident on October 14, 2014 in which both ejection seats fired whilst the aircraft was coming in to land. The pilots were safe, but the aircraft crashed about 20 km short of the runway. No loss of life or damage to property was reported.”

Seat ejection is done by the pilots during an emergency. Automatic seat ejection happens rarely and, if validated, is a cause for serious concern for the Air Force, which is already grappling with a dwindling squadron strength. The Sukhoi aircraft are the most modern in the force and are expected to remain its mainstay for the next few decades.

The K-36DM ejection seat manufactured by NPP Zvezda of Russia is widely used in all variants of the Sukhoi family and on the Mig-29.

It is learnt that Russian experts will join their Indian counterparts in determining the cause of the crash.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 3:07:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/IAF-grounds-Sukhoi-30-fleet-after-Pune-crash/article11080793.ece

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