HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Lamp-lit IAF runway a risk to fighter pilots

Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 18, 2014
First Published: 20:52 IST(18/7/2014) | Last Updated: 20:56 IST(18/7/2014)

Indian Air Force pilots carry out night landings in the sensitive Ladakh sector using gooseneck flares for want of an airfield lighting system (AFLS), the Comptroller and Auditor General revealed on Friday. The AFLS is a flight safety necessity.

Lack of proper lighting had imposed limitations on night flying and impacted operational preparedness of the Leh airbase, the CAG said in a report tabled in Parliament. Leh is the world's highest operational airfield and the army is dependent on it for air maintenance.

Gooseneck flares belong to the World War II era. The CAG said lighting up the runway with solar gooseneck flares was "time consuming and involved great effort."

The auditor also found that the airbases at Leh and Bareilly, where Sukhoi-30 fighters are based, posed risk to fighter operations due to deteriorating runway surface.

The CAG rapped the IAF for squandering Rs. 156 crore on a failed project to upgrade ageing MiG-27 fighters. It also revealed that the IAF was forced to ground 61 of its 105 AN-32 transport planes last year, despite spending Rs. 272 crore of taxpayer's money on a project to upgrade the aircraft.

Messing up an order for AN-32 aero-engines led to an "avoidable expenditure" of Rs. 227 crore, the report said.

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