A day after Sukhoi crash, fleet grounded, checks underway

May 1st, 2009 - 8:40 pm ICT by IANS  

F-16 New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) A day after a frontline Sukhoi Su-30 combat jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed in the first such accident since the plane was inducted 12 years ago, the entire fleet was temporarily grounded Friday for a thorough inspection of the aircraft’s airframe and systems.
“The aircraft did not take to the skies today (Friday) and thorough checks are being conducted,” an IAF officer said, requesting anonymity.

“A court of enquiry is underway and nothing can be said at this stage about the cause of the crash,” he added.

However, the crash has raised the alarming possibility of “structural faults” in the aircraft, another officer said, without elaborating.

In a blot on its otherwise unblemished record, a Russian origin Su-30MKI crashed in Jaisalmer Thursday, killing the co-pilot. The pilot, Wing Commander S.V. Munje, and the co-pilot, Wing Commander P.S. Narah, managed to bail out in time but the latter was killed after he was apparently hit by the falling debris of the aircraft.

Ironically, Narah belonged to the IAF’s Directorate General of Inspections and Safety and was putting the aircraft through its annual safety checks.

Munje is currently under “medical supervision”.

The aircraft had taken off from the Lohegaon air base in Pune on a routine sortie and crashed at 10.30 a.m. while returning to its base.

There were no reports of damage to property on the ground.

The IAF operates three squadrons (approximately 55 aircraft) of the jet, some of which were bought in a fly-away condition from its Russian manufacturer while the others were manufactured under license by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

It was not immediately clear which category the crashed jet belonged to.

The Su-30 has won universal acclaim from the air forces of the US, Britain and France whenever it has been fielded against them in war games. Eight Su-30s had participated in the prestigious Red Flag exercise with the US Air Force at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, last year and had more than held their own against their counterparts’ F/A-18 and F-16 combat jets.

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