India-Singapore joint air exercises

Wherein another Mirage bites the dust

The two Indian Air Force pilots ejected to safety but their Mirage 2000 crashed during Operation Ankush, part of the Sindex joint air exercises with the Republic of Singapore Air Force. That’s the third Mirage 2000 the IAF has lost in less than a month. The IAF needs to ask itself some hard questions.

The crash on Tuesday involved a Mirage trainer. It was ditched after its engine stalled, apparently because of a compressor failure.

Preliminary reports indicated that the trainer experienced engine trouble at 18,000 feet. It stalled at 1,800 feet, still four nautical miles away from the Maharajpur runway. The pilots ejected safely.

While the maintenance wing has come under the Air Hqs scanner, it’s learnt that a French air force Mirage too met with a similar engine problem recently.

On September 23, a Mirage went down and there’s prima facie evidence to suggest it had to with maintainence problems.

On October 3, a Mirage fighter crash-landed at Plaisance airport in Mauritius. Preliminary findings point to pilot error.

A French technical team from Dassault Mirage is already in Gwalior, working with IAF and HAL experts to get to the bottom of the problem. The IAF has two Mirage squadrons: Tigers and Battle Axes.

While Air Hqs is tightlipped, it’s learnt that action may be taken action against some of the officers involved.

What has upset the IAF most is the September 23 crash where the nose wheel fell because some bolts had corroded. This clearly pointed to slackness on the part of the maintenance wing in Gwalior.

The Mauritius incident, on the other hand, is being attributed to pilot error because the undercarriage was not lowered in time before landing. Sources said that the aircraft’s auxiliary fuel tank, emptied while in flight, took the impact. Had the tank been full, the aircraft could have exploded. At the time of landing, the aircraft speed was some 220 km per hour. The Mirage, undergoing repairs in Mauritius, will soon be ready for the flight home. [New Indian Express]

The Singapore air force has four F-16Cs and two F-16Ds participating in the exercise. Given the much publicised results of this years’ US-India air exercises where the Indian Sukhois and MiGs put up a good show against American F-15s, Singapore defence purchasers must be to see the results of the current exercise.

Though India and Singapore have held joint naval manoeuvres for 10 years, Sindex is the first joint air exercise to be staged since India and Singapore inked a Defence Cooperation Agreement in New Delhi last October.

In an interview with The Straits Times in July to mark SAF Day, Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said discussions were underway for Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) servicemen to train on Indian soil in camps run by the SAF on long-term leases.[Straits Times]