Admitting that aircraft crashes were a matter of concern, the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Naik said Monday they couldn't be entirely ruled out.
"Yes, crashes are a matter of concern. It pains us because it involves not only the loss of aircraft, but sometimes lives also," Naik told reporters in New Delhi.
"I can assure you that even though some of our aircraft are old, it is a matter of pride that they are fully serviceable," he said.
"In older aircraft, the mean time between failure tends to reduce. We carefully analyse every crash and take remedial action," Naik said.
The IAF suffered two crashes last week, the first on Feb 16 when a MiG-27 went down near Hashimara in West Bengal, killing the pilot. A MiG-21 crashed on Feb 19 at Bagdogra, also in West Bengal, but the pilot managed to eject to safety.
"In the first case, it appears to be a failure of the low pressure turbine blades. In the second, there was an engine surge and the thrust dropped, forcing the pilot to eject," Naik said, an indication of the openness with which the IAF is dealing with such issues.
"Accidents are bound to happen. What we must ensure is that operational efficiency is not degraded," he pointed out.
Speaking about the progress on the global tender the IAF has floated for 126 combat jets in a deal valued at $10 billion, Naik said two aircraft - the Lockheed Martin F-16 IN Super Viper and the Dassault Rafale - had completed all three rounds of trials.
The Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Saab Gripen, the MiG-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon have completed two rounds of trials each.
"The trials should finish by April-end and it will then take us a couple of months to draw up a shortlist," he said.
Still, the price negotiations could take about 18 months before the final order is placed.
Eighteen jets will be purchased in fly-away condition and the balance will be manufactured in India by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) on a transfer of technology basis.