With India and Pakistan sabre-rattling over cross-border skirmishes, a distressing fact about India’s premier fighter jets has come to light. According to sources, over 20 SU-30 MKI fighters, the backbone of the Indian Air Force, are lying with Hindustan Aeronautics for overhaul and are not available for combat.
While HAL has 15 overhauling lines, it could service only 10 aircraft last year. MoD sources highlighted the problem and said that “assuming the massive effect of the problem, remedial measures have been taken.”
“The delay is of three years. While the HAL had 15 overhauling/serving lines and it was not able to complete the task, Air Force’s Base Repair Depots have set up 10 additional lines to make up for the loss of time,” added the sources.
HAL sources said the aim is to bring the time period for overhauling/serving to 22 months in the next two years and then the BRD will assist in bringing it down to 15 months.
Every IAF fighter aircraft goes to HAL for major overhauling and servicing. In case of Sukhois, they are due for overhauling after completing 1,200 hours of flying time. The minor overhauling of the IAF aircraft and helicopters is done at the unit level.
Initially, the schedule to complete the overhauling was 14 months but HAL wanted the time raised to 22 months. However, HAL has not been able to meet even this target as it takes around 27 months to overhaul/service one SU 30 MKI. This delay has caused a number of Sukhois to be non-operational.
The matter assumes significance in the light of losses of fighters in recent months. This year, the number of fighter squadrons is down to 30 against the authorised strength of 42.