New Delhi: The Indian Navy is “concerned” after last week’s MiG 29K crash as both engines of the fighter aircraft had failed following what is believed to be a “bird hit”.
There was no casualty as both pilots had safely ejected before the fighter aircraft crashed outside a village in Goa.
Navy sources told ThePrint their concern is over the fact that both the engines failed. The aircraft was a twin-engine model and the idea to have an aircraft like that is to ensure that the pilots can recover it even if one engine fails.
The Navy is awaiting report of the court of inquiry (CoI) instituted in the matter to investigate the cause of the accident.
“The CoI will establish the real cause of the failure of both the engines and whether both suffered due to bird hit,” said an officer.
According to the Navy, the twin-seater Russian aircraft, on a routine training sortie, encountered a “flock of birds” after take-off from the naval Air Base at Dabolim in Goa around noon on 16 November.
“The pilot observed that the left engine had flamed out and the right engine had caught fire. Attempts to recover the aircraft following the standard operating procedures were unsuccessful due to the nature of the emergency,” the Navy said in a statement.
The CoI was instituted by the Navy the same day.
“Thankfully, both the pilots are safe. An analysis of the black box will reveal what happened. The Russian team that is stationed in India as part of the contract will also assist in the CoI,” another officer said.
An aircraft with a history of problems
Though this is the first crash of a MiG 29K fighter jet while in air, it has faced operational deficiencies due to defects in engines, airframe and fly-by-wire system, leading to very low availability, in the past too.
In a scathing report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the audit agency observed that “the MiG-29K, which is a carrier-borne multi-role aircraft and the mainstay of integral fleet air defence, is riddled with problems relating to airframe, RD MK-33 engine and fly-by-wire system”.
One of the main concerns was with the aircraft’s engines. The Navy sources, however, said most of those issues had been sorted out.
“The aircraft started coming to India in knocked down kits in 2012. There were some issues initially, but those have more or less being taken care of,” said a source.
India had ordered 45 of these fighters from Russia but currently operates only less than two dozen of them — the rest are kept as war reserves and in other forms.