NEW DELHI: If depleting numbers in the fighter fleet of Indian Air Force (IAF) are a cause of concern, lack of procurement and delay in indigenous production are not the only reasons. India regularly loses aircraft in accidents and over the past five years, nearly one squadron has been lost to crashes.
As per data provided by the Defence Ministry in Parliament, 26 fighter jets have gone down in the past five years killing 12 pilots and seven other crew members.
In the first six months of 2019 alone, the IAF has lost six aircraft to accidents. A Jaguar was lost in January while two -- a Hawk Mk 132 and a MiG 27 UPG -- were lost in February. In March, the IAF again lost two aircraft to crashes -- a MiG 21 Bison and a MiG 27 UPG. An AN-32 was lost in June.
In August, a Sukhoi-30 was lost during a training sortie in Assam. These numbers do not include Mi-17 helicopter crash in Jammu and Kashmir`s Budgam in April, at the height of Indo-Pak tension following the Balakot airstrikes, which killed six people apart from a civilian.
A high-level probe carried out into the incident has revealed that the Mi-17 helicopter had been hit by an Indian missile in a mistaken case of F&F identification. Five IAF officials, including the chief operating officer of the base, have been held guilty for the accident.
The IAF crash report card of the last five years shows that seven fighters were lost in 2014-15 and 2018-19 each and another six in 2016-17.
Two years -- 2015-16 and 2017-18 -- were by far the best years in recent times. In 2015-16, four aircraft were lost and only two accidents took place in 2017-18.
While a dozen pilots were killed in these accidents up to 2019, the total number of casualties is even higher. The total loss of lives in these accidents is 46 as seven aircrew and 27 service personnel also died in crashes.
Over the past five years, if crashes involving helicopters, trainers and transporters are included then losses go up to 37. A breakdown of numbers show six helicopters, nine trainers and three transport aircraft were lost in accidents.