India’s newest naval warplane is plagued with engine troubles, airframe problems, deficiencies in its fly-by-wire system and is battling poor serviceability, the country’s top auditor has revealed.
In a report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the Comptroller and Auditor General said the Russian-origin MiG-29K warplanes were being accepted despite a string of discrepancies. The deck-based fighter operates from INS Vikramaditya, a second-hand carrier bought from Russia.
“The MiG-29K is riddled with problems relating to airframe, RD MK-33 engine and fly-by-wire system,” the CAG said.
The deficiencies in the maritime fighter have compromised its battle-readiness. The report revealed that the serviceability of the single-seat MiG-29K ranged from an unimpressive 15.93% to 37.63 % while that of the twin-seat trainer MiG-29KUB hovered between 21.3% and 47.14%.
The navy commissioned its first squadron of MiG-29K fighters at Goa in May 2013, ahead of the induction of INS Vikramaditya.
It also plans to deploy the fighters on the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being built at the state-owned Cochin Shipyard. India has so for placed separate orders for 45 fighters.
The service life of the aircraft is 6000 hours or 25 years, whichever is earlier. The CAG said the operational life of the fighters already delivered would be reduced due to the problems it’s grappling with.
In another report tabled in Parliament, the auditor revealed how India had spent Rs 18,646 crore on 10 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III planes but failed to utilize them adequately.
“The annual average load airlifted by C-17 ranged between 13 tonne and 18 tonne per sortie, against the aircraft’s payload capacity of 70 tonne… Thus a costly national asset, procured for carrying heavy loads was not being used as per its capacity,” the report said.
The CAG found that a fork lifter weighing 13 tonne was always carried on the plane for loading and unloading cargo as IAF units did not have ground handling equipment. This fork lifter occupies 35% of the cargo space.
“Due to this space restriction, C-17 aircraft had to undertake more than one sortie on the same day to airlift cargo from same destination, on many occasions. With cost of Rs 43.19 Lakh per flying hour for C-17 aircraft, this was imprudent,” the report said. The planes were inducted in IAF between June 2013 and December 2014.