The Bold Voice of J&K

Why so many crashes in India?

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Dr Satyawan Saurabh

The MiG-21 is a Russian-made fighter aircraft. Its engine is very old and along with it the technology used in it is also very old. It is a single engine and it also catches fire. Its potential to be used is much greater. The investigation has revealed that there is some fault in the design of its windows, due to which accidents like crashes took place. Although it will be retired in 2025, it took its first flight in year 1955 and was inducted into the Indian Air Force in the year 1963. MiG-21 fighter jets were bought from the erstwhile Soviet Union (now Russia) in the 1960s. Russia retired this fighter plane in 1985, but these ships are still being used in the Indian Army. The specialty of this ship has been that it never cheats, provided it is flown with utmost care and understanding. In the 1971 war, the enemy was shaken by the attack of this supersonic ship. It was the MiG-21 that attacked the Governor’s House in Dhaka. Apart from this, this fighter ship proved itself in the 1965 and 1999 wars with Pakistan. Now the incidents of the crash of this ship have become so much that it has been called ‘flying coffin’ and ‘widow maker’. Although its upgradation work is going on, will it be completely retired in the next two-three years?
The MiG-21 Bison is the first supersonic jet in aviation history and is also the best-selling fighter jet in the world. While it is over 60 years old, the MiG-21 is still in service with the Indian Air Force with four active squadrons and has been updated to match Generation 3 fighter jets. The jets are currently being used only as interceptors, with a limited role as fighter jets, and are mostly used for training exercises. The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 21 is a supersonic jet fighter and interceptor aircraft, designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. The MiG is a product of the Soviet Union which entered service in 1959. Nearly 60 countries on four continents have flown the MiG-21, and it continues to serve many countries six decades after its first flight.
India inducted the MiG-21 in 1963 and received full technology transfer and rights to license-manufacture the aircraft in the country. Russia ceased production of the aircraft in 1985, while India continued to operate advanced variants. The Soviet Air Force – which is credited with designing the aircraft – removed it from service in 1985. By then, countries from the US to Vietnam had inducted the aircraft into their air forces. Bangladesh and Afghanistan removed it from service after 1985. For India, the aircraft were inducted into the Air Force in the 1960s and completed their retirement in the mid-1990s.
Despite this, they are being upgraded. In October 2014, the Air Chief said that the delay in decommissioning the old aircraft posed a threat to India’s security as some parts of the fleet were old. Also, being a single-engine aircraft means it is always in danger. The plane is more likely to crash if a bird hits it or the engine fails. It is often called the ‘flying coffin’ and ‘widow maker’, as it has suffered several accidents over the years, killing several pilots. Induction of new fighter planes due to the delay, the IAF is facing the crunch of maintaining a fixed squadron strength to defend India’s skies. Delays in the indigenous Tejas program, political controversies surrounding the Rafale deal, and a slow procurement process meant that the MiGs had to be kept in.
Longer service than usual, well beyond his retirement age – in the mid-1990s. In last ten years, there have been 108 air accidents and losses involving all wings of the military – Indian Air Force, Navy, Army, and Coast Guard. Of these, 21 crashes involved the MiG-21 Bison and its variants, although the IAF now mostly flies the former. The high rate of accidents earned the aircraft the nickname the ‘Flying Coffin’. There is no single common cause of military aircraft crashes. They can range from weather, human error, and technical error to bird hit. The MiG-21 is a single-engine fighter, and it may have been the cause of some accidents. It is a single-engine fighter and when it loses an engine, it needs to be restarted. More often than not it re-lights but it takes a finite amount of time for any engine to re-light, so if you are below minimum altitude, you will need to abandon the aircraft. Preventing future aircraft accidents lie in the use of a combination of technology and appropriate and adequate pilot training. The installation of a ground proximity warning system in the aircraft would generate an early signal that could alert the flight crew to take preventive measures against the onset of CFIT. Emphasis should be placed in pilot training on effective training of pilots to develop situational awareness and make correct interventions.

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