The Indian Air Force lost a top combat pilot in what was termed routine operational flying training mission. As a Sukhoi-30 with pilots in training had a rare mid-air collision with a Mirage 2000, suspicions may arise as to how such an accident could have come about.
Whether it was outright pilot error, as it may seem on the face of it in this case because amid-air collision caused the mishap, the issue is that the public will never know as to what causes IAF crashes. In the name of national security, never are the findings of probes ever released to the public.
The Sukhois have a poorer safety record as there have been several crashes in the last 30 years or so leading to loss of 10 aircraft of a total fleet strength of 272. Even so, none can be judgmental about this collision. Only that it is a pity the IAF should lose a trainer pilot of very high standing who was a senior in the TACDE, which is the force’s premier combat development institution where the best pilots go to be trained to become leaders of fighter missions.
The loss of an ace pilot becomes more poignant because mid-air collisions are so rare as to occur about once in a couple of decades or so. The last one suffered by the armed forces may have been at least 20 years ago when two naval aircraft collided.
Mirage fighter jets, considered IAF’s ace flying machines before France’s more sophisticated Rafael jets may have come to join the force recently and which had also carried out the strikes on the Jaish camp, have an impressive service record built up for nearly 40 years now.
Suffice it to say that the IAF needs to do a lot more to ensure safety in the air even if risk is inherent in the nature of the job. It would also serve public interest if probe findings are made public so that people may know whose fault it was.