The Indian Air Force (IAF) has lost a total of 37 aircraft and helicopters since May 2014, the government told the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. It added that the crashes claimed the lives of 55 people in a span of three years.
The defence forces lost 25 aircraft and 12 helicopters during the three year period, the data provided by Minister of State for Defence (MoS) Subhash Bhamre revealed. Out of the total 37 aircraft and helicopters, 24 of them were lost in crashes in 2014-2015 alone.
The main reasons behind the crashes have been identified as "technical defects" and "human error", Bhamre said. The reasons indicate that ageing aircraft, poor maintenance and inadequate pilot training might have contributed to the crashes.
Since 2011, the IAF has recorded crashes of 65 aircraft and helicopters that have claimed the lives of more than 80 people. The crash figures feature 30 fighter jets, including five twin-engine Sukhoi-30 MKIs - India's latest and most potent fighter jets.
Bhamre said that a court of inquiry investigates every accident following which its recommendations are implemented. He added that accident prevention programmes were being given an added push to identify risk-prone areas particularly for aircraft fleet and operational environment.
The MoS said that measures were being taken to prevent accidents. "These include invigoration of the Aviation Safety Organization, streamlining of the accident reporting procedure, analytical studies and quality audits of the aircraft fleets to identify vulnerable areas to avoid accidents," Bhamre said in a written response to the House on Tuesday.
"Accident prevention programmes have been given an added thrust to identify risk prone or hazardous areas specific to the aircraft fleets and operational environment to ensure safe practices and procedures," he added.
Bhamre also said that the IAF had upgraded its MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter jets as part of an obsolescence management programme so that they do not lose their relevance. The MiG-29 fighter jets are also being upgraded in phases. "These mid-life upgrades enable the aircraft to improve the combat potential and operational capability," Bhamre told the Rajya Sabha.
Training of IAF pilots is also reviewed on a regular basis to stay abreast of the latest teaching techniques utilising state-of-art training aids.