Sukhoi fleet resumes flying ; nearly after a month of crash
NEW DELHI: The frontline Sukhoi Su-30 MKI combat jets of the Indian Air Force have resumed flying nearly a month after the entire fleet was grounded following the crash of one of the aircraft that broke a 12-year accident-free record, an official said.
The aircraft are again being flown even as a 20-member team of Russian experts have been conducting checkups on them.
"The aircraft conducted a sortie last weekend," a senior Indian Air Force official said, but did not elaborate.
He, however, confirmed that the Russian team summoned to inspect the fleet is carrying on with the checks, inspecting the aircrafts' airframe and systems.
The IAF grounded its fleet of approximately 55 Russian-origin Su-30s after one of the aircraft crashed last week. Generally, an entire fleet is not grounded if an aircraft of a particular type crashes. In the case of the Su-30, however, there have been "recurring complaints" by pilots about problems with the jet.
The grounding of the Su-30 fleet has given rise to the alarming possibility of "structural faults" with the aircraft.
In a blot on its otherwise unblemished record, a Su-30 MKI crashed in Jaisalmer April 30, 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 Narah 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.
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.
The IAF operates three squadrons of the jet, some of which were bought in a fly-away condition from its Russian manufacturer while the others were manufactured under licence by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
It was not immediately clear to which of these categories the crashed jet belonged.
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 the US' F/A-18 and F-16 combat jets.