NEW DELHI --- In a startling saga of compromises made on the safety and capability of India's frontline fighter aircraft besides posing danger to the life of pilots, it has come to light that at least 18 of brand new Sukhoi 30 MKI had been fitted with already-used and secondhand engines.
"It was noticed while checking the records…that AL 31FP engines fitted in certain aircraft was in Cat B condition at the time of inspection / delivery to Indian Air Force (IAF)," said a report encapsulating the findings that have been accessed by this newspaper. The IAF's frontline Sukhoi 30 MKI is a multipurpose twin-seater supersonic fighter aircraft which is powered by two AL-31FP aero engines.
While this fitment of Cat 2 (category B) or secondhand engines into brand new Sukhoi 30 MKIs was done at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's (HAL) facility at Nashik "without the knowledge and approval of the defence ministry", what is surprising is the acceptance of such aircraft by the IAF. "Certain aircraft with one new and one old engine were wrongly accepted by IAF and the Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance. As these arrangements were not in tune with contractual provisions, it should have been rejected by IAF and DGAQA…. In any case, IAF should have obtained approval from MoD for accepting aircraft with one second hand engine.”
Sukhoi 30 MKI has two AL 31FP engines
-- 18 Su 30 MKIs fitted with old engines
-- Poses reliability and safety risk
-- Fitment violates contractual conditions
-- India has about 230 operational fighters although just half is available for operational flights at any given point of time
-- 7 Sukhoi 30 MKIs have crashed to date, causing a loss of about Rs 2,350 crore