New Delhi: The Indian Navy has grounded the entire Sea Harrier fighter jet fleet in the backdrop of one of the aircraft crashing off Goa last week, rendering its lone aircraft carrier, ‘INS Viraat’, without aerial firepower.
“The Sea Harriers have been grounded following the crash that left a fighter pilot dead,” a navy official said on Tuesday.
Performance issues: A Sea Harrier aboard the INS Viraat. Credit Line
With the grounding of the 10 Sea Harrier jump jets, ‘INS Viraat’, which got afloat at the Cochin Shipyard Ltd’s dry dock after an 18-month refit a fortnight ago, may have to sail to the Gulf of Aden next month without its fighter jets.
“We cannot operate the aircraft till the board of inquiry is complete and the reasons for the crash are known. The problems identified by the probe need to be rectified before the jump jets are airborne again,” an official said.
The probe could take a while as the aircraft does not have a flight data recorder and the wreckage needed to be examined minutely to arrive at the reasons for the mishap, officials said.
Following a series of crashes since induction, the navy is now left with just 10 Sea Harriers of the at least 20 it had bought in the mid-1980s.
Mint had reported on 26 November 2007 about the growing number of Harrier crashes. In a puzzling response and despite the seemingly high accident rate, the defence ministry, in its right to information reply to activist Hari Kumar P., had claimed that there was nothing wrong with the aircraft. The “Sea Harriers are fully operational and capable of delivering the desired performance in Indian conditions”, the ministry wrote. “These aircraft are sustainable in the Indian environment.”
(Mint’s Utpal Bhaskar contributed to this story.)