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IAF slammed for damage to crucial aerostat radar

India had procured two aerostat radars at a cost of Rs 676 crore in 2007.



New Delhi: IAF`s capabilities to monitor low-level flying enemy aircraft have taken a hit as one of its two aerostat radars deployed along the Pakistan border was
damaged in an accident in 2009 due to "failure" of its three officers and is likely to be operational only by next year.

A CAG report tabled in Parliament today said that a Court of Inquiry to investigate the causes of the accident involving the Rs 338 crore aerostat "held three officers responsible for their failure in adequate supervision" of the maintenance
activities.

"All the three officers were awarded severe displeasure for six months as they failed to carry out their responsibilities which led to the accident of the aerostat
costing Rs 338 crore," the report said.

India had procured the two aerostat radars at a cost of Rs 676 crore in 2007 to meet its low level surveillance requirement against enemy aircraft and drones.

Slamming the Air Force for the mishap, the CAG said the repair of the damaged system is estimated to cost Rs 302 crore.

"The recovery programme of the damaged aerostat would take 18 months from the commencement of repair work. However, the IAF could issue the RFP to vendor for damage assessment in April 2010 and the contract was not concluded by June 2011," it said.

The government auditor said against the authorised four meteorological officers and nine meteorological assistants, "the unit had no meteorological officers and only two meteorological assistants were there."

Inadequate manpower at the unit resulted in failure to continually monitor the development of clouds and changes in wind direction and the aerostat balloon met with the accident in May 2009, it said.

The CAG, in its strong critique of the merger process, said there were "huge delays in actualisation of the merger/operational integration" and added that the single code passenger reservation system was activated only this February.

Had the possibility of the merger, including various aspects like route rationalisation, network integration and common maintenance and overhaul facilities, been considered even at a late stage in the process of fleet acquisition, "the underlying economics could have been significantly altered".

Observing that a common fleet acquisition plan for the two earlier carriers could have been considered, it said the potential benefits would have been far higher had all these steps been undertaken before finalising "the massive and separate fleet acquisition undertaken" by the two airlines.

Regarding human resources integration, the CAG said while apprehensions regarding HR problems were expressed in 2006, the integration of 98 percent of staff below the level of deputy general manager "has still not taken place".

Though Air India had "inherent strengths", it said, "There was no evidence of Civil Aviation Ministry having provided it with positive support in the last few years".

It said if the airline has to be "nursed to commercial viability", the government must lay down a road map for liquidating the liability within a short span after making a realistic assessment of revenue generation capacity. Piecemeal infusion of small amounts is merely going to at best delay the certain closure of the airline".

Recommending provision of a level-playing field to AI "which has not been given", the CAG said accountability of the airline, its board and directors and the ministry have to be "clearly established and transparently dealt with".

PTI

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