Armed Forces Must Be On Guard To Keep Accidents To Minimum

All armed forces deal with lethal weapons, explosives and fast moving machines like ships, tanks and aircraft which are handled by persons who are prone to human errors. Machines can also fail despite all precautions. Most professional Armed Forces train their personnel to high standards and maintain equipment in top class condition to ensure that accidents are minimised. This is the hallmark of a service in peace so that forces are ever ready for war. The Indian Armed Forces by and large have a good record except that the Indian Air Force has been afflicted by an unusually large number of air accidents and fatalities compared to other professional Air Forces. This is the challenge before the IAF. 

IDC through this accidents update wishes to enhance awareness and the need for reducing accidents. The fine Indian Army suffers casualties almost every other day in the Kashmir and the North East. Even though there are four professional forces like Victor recently taken over by Maj Gen Nadkarni and Kilo under the unified command of experienced Major Generals there is no respite. In the North East 3 Corps battles insurgency with casualties. They face many dangers and have to use ruses when on the road. Earlier this week 27 Army soldiers died on their way to Srinagar from Jammu while returning from leave in a road accident. They were travelling in a State Government bus to avoid being intercepted by terrorists. IDC has already analysed the fire that took place at the Bharatpur Ammunition Depot on 28 Apr possibly caused by dry over grown grass. Civil works never keep pace with acquisitions hence compromising the safety. The Navy also has has its share of collisions, fires and accidents but these are not alarming. 

INS JYOTI suffered a massive collision in the Malacca straits last year and has since been repaired by Hindustan Shipyard at Vishakapatnam. It is, however as stated earlier the Indian Air Force which has been battling air accidents with fatalities and loss of expensive aircraft. Committee after committee has recommended measures to bring down the high accident rate of around 22 machines per year with 50% fatalities. The acquisition of AJT which has been unduly delayed is one such step and hopefully Mr. George Fernandes' visit to UK will bring forth fruitful results. 

Upto 1997 the IAF had lost 477 fighter aircraft alone which included 314 MIG variants and 135 fighter pilots. On 25 Apr a MIG 23 from Halwara went down killing Flt Lt Raj Kumar Madat and another MIG 23 crashed near Patiala around 14 May though the pilot managed to bail out. Media also reported a MIG 21 crash and on 12 Jun a MIG 27 went down in Midnapore district injuring its pilot Sqn Ldr Joshi. 

IDC was asked the difference between MIG 23 and 27. Both are swing wing fighter bombers of the same variety. The MIG 23 is the older version supplied from Russia and MIG 27 is manufactured by HAL at Nasik including its engines. As regards helicopter accidents, on 10 May in a bizaare set of events a helicopter that took off from Sirsawa with the Chief Engineer GREF Brig Bakshi made a crash landing in the Lahaul Spiti mountain region in bad weather. A tunnel under the Rohtang pass to connect Manali with Leh so that the road can be used even in snow season is being built as per the MOD report. The relief helicopter piloted by Flying Officer Ghosal with Wing Commander Chander Singh the Station Commander and Captain Vishal Srivastava a doctor took off but crashed in the area killing the Wing Cdr and the doctor. The pilot was injured. 

News now released is that on 13 Jun Maj Gen J Mukerjee COS 15 Corps due to take over the Corps as Lt Gen had a miraculous escape in North Kashmir as his helicopter crashed. The importance of adherence to rules of operation, maintenance and safety cannot be over stated and the Armed Forces have to devote extra effort in this direction. The Government that is the bureaucracy needs to speedily provide the wherewithal to the Armed Forces in this task. The life of old machines keep getting extended as new acquisitions to replace them keep getting postponed.

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