IAF Sukhoi fighter plane crashes in Assam, occupants safe

Tezpur: A Sukhoi-30 aircraft, India's front line fighter plane, crashed at Laokhowa in Nagaon district of Assam following a technical snag but both the pilot and weapons systems operator ejected safely.

This is the sixth crash of the aircraft, manufactured here under licence from Russia, since 2009. The incident happened at about 12:30 PM, 36 kms away from Tezpur.

The SU-30 aircraft had taken off from Air Force Station Tezpur on a routine mission at 12:17. "After take off, the aircraft had developed a technical snag and the pilot was forced to abandon the aircraft. Both the pilots ejected," the IAF said in a statement.

The ejection was safe and the aircraft crashed at 1230 hours in a thick forest near Tezpur. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident, the statement said. The last crash of a Sukhoi fighter plane had taken place in October last year near Pune. The CoI report on the crash is still awaited.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had in March admitted to problems with the Sukhoi aircraft. Parrikar said the Russian Original Equipment Manufacturer had introduced a number of measures to contain and eliminate technical issues that have led to engine troubles in flight. "OEM has offered nine modifications or technological improvements for implementation in the production of new aero engines and during overhaul of engines," he had said.

Parrikar said the Indian Air Force has also finalised long-term repair agreements with Russian OEMs to improve availability of aircraft for operational use. "25 new engines with modified technology have been procured from Russia," he had said.

An analysis of 69 incidents of technical troubles in the aircraft showed that in 33 cases those were due to chips in the oil and vibration in engine bearings.

In 11 cases, low pressure of lubricating oil was the reason, while other faults were identified in eight cases. Extensive discussions were held with the Russians and a better quality of engine oil was procured. Some adjustments and repairs in the ball bearings also resolved some of the issues.

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