Jul 21, 2014
Su-30MKI engine failures worry IAF; Russia told to fix snag
Repeated engine failures and the newly introduced precautionary measures have affected the availability of planes for various operations. The IAF has a fleet of 200 Sukhois.
After a failure, the engine is replaced after testing before allowing the plane to fly again. The process of removing and replacing an engine usually takes four-five days, but can be extended depending upon the damage.
As a stopgap arrangement, the Russian side had suggested some measures.
The IAF has so far not arrived at a conclusion of its findings, but as a precautionary step, it has started servicing the engine after 700 hours instead of the mandated 1,000 hours of flying, adding to the non-availability of the aircraft.
Sources said the matter was taken up at the India-Russia meeting in June this year and also in February when a Russian delegation visited the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's (HAL's) Sukhoi-30MKI plant at Nashik.
The IAF had told Russians after studying each failure in detail that Sukhoi's engines - AL-31FP produced by NPO Saturn of Russia - had been functioning inconsistently for the past two years (2012 and 2013). The number of single-engine landings by planes in two years is high and not healthy. It lowers the operational ability of the fleet, besides raising questions about war readiness.
A single-engine landing is necessitated after one of the power plants fails mid-air. The Sukhoi-30MKI is a twin-engine plane and a mid-air failure of one of its engines means the second engine allows it to land. Such a situation would be unacceptable during a conflict when the pilot would need an optimum speed to attack or to withdraw after an attack. The power of both engines is required to lift eight tonne of payload - missiles and rockets.
The IAF and the Ministry and Defence have always considered the Sukhoi as a "safe and reliable" warplane. So far, only four have crashed since phased- induction in 1997. A pilot had died in the first crash in 2009 and at least one of the crashes is attributed to engine trouble.
In northern and western India, the Sukhoi-30MKI is based at Bathinda, Halwara near Ludhiana, Sirsa, Bareilly, Jodhpur and Bhuj.