India and Russia are sparring over what led to the crash over of a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter near Pune last October.
Russia blames human error for the crash, but the Indian Air Force refuses to accept it, deepening the mystery surrounding the crash of the Russian-origin fighter being licence produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
HT was the first to report on October 22, 2014, the two pilots reported “automatic seat ejection,” a freak occurrence that led to the crash and grounding of the entire fleet for several weeks.
With IAF operating close to 200 twin-engine Su-30s, the grounded planes represented almost a third of the country’s fighter fleet. One of the two pilots was involved in a previous Su-30 crash too.
“We know it’s the human factor and the IAF accepts it,” said Vitaly Borodich, vice president (military sales), Irkut, which designed the fighter. The Russians are implying the Indian pilots deliberately ejected.
However, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha ruled out human error, stressing “inadvertent firing” of ejection seats had been reported in the past too.
“We carried out a thorough investigation but didn’t find anything wrong with the ejection system. There was no indication of human error either. That’s why we resumed flying,” Raha told reporters at Aero India, underway at the Yelahanka air base.
Borodich was among the Russian specialists who assisted the IAF with the investigation.
“I will not comment on anyone’s observations. We know what we are doing. The probe report will be out soon. I don’t want to make it controversial,” Raha said. India is the largest operator of the Su-30s in the world, with a contract for 272 fighters.
Five Su-30 fighters have crashed during the last five years, setting off alarm bells in the IAF. The Su-30 fleet has been grounded at least thrice.