Express News Service
Bangalore: Exposed Sukhois are in the danger of having nick marks on the engine blades, though the thrust vector part is generally covered. With a transparent (opaque) canopy, the heat gets settled inside, slowly, but surely impacting on multiple non-metallic parts, including those linked to ejection systems. While the Indian Air Force (IAF) failed to give a detailed response to our queries, sources flying and feeding the Sukhois told Express that the shelter-less state of affairs of a modern fighter is 'shocking.'
HAL officials are amused as to why the IAF didn't bother to provide shelters to the fighters' biggest bases at Pune and Barelley. “The IAF had enough time from 2002 onwards to put up shelters in Pune. Weather has an impact on the fighters if they are parked outside,” sources said. HAL's first official communication, expressing serious concerns, is said to have been sent to the IAF's Maintenance Command in October 2010. The IAF operates over 150 Sukhois from its bases in Pune, Barelley, Chabua, Jodhpur and Tezpur.
Sources said that even lightning strike didn't spare a Sukhoi in 2009 causing serious emergency. “The aircraft suffered structural damages, which is unheard of in modern times. All these are definitely pointing towards quality and design issues. If we don't address them now and take corrective steps, it will be a bad publicity for the IAF, HAL, and to both friendly nations of India and Russia. At what cost are we losing them?” a veteran pilot, who were among the first to fly the Sukhois, said.
An official with the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) says that the all Russian aircraft are designed for safe operations in minus temperatures. “If the Sukhois are parked outside, even with a canvass cover, it cannot escape from the trapped temperature inside, which will be very high as compared to the reflected temperature. We don't have much insight into the Russian qualification process,” the official said. He claimed that for Indian military platforms (Tejas, Dhruv, Sitara) the rubber parts are tested and qualified to a maxim temperature of 71 degrees Celsius.
Air Marshal (Retd) T.S. Randhawa, an expert with Sukhoi platforms, said that the IAF is already in the process of getting shelters. “We understand that there can be an effect due to exposing the fighter to sun. The weather varies – like hot, cold, dust, breeze and over a longer period of time, YES, there could be an impact. But, these fighters are serviced as per the IAF SOPs,” he said.
SUNBURN: The possible damage to Sukhois due to prolonged exposure to the sun:
- Flexing on fuel tanks leading to leakages
- Effect on avionics resulting in premature failures
- Impact on ejection system due to transparent canopy
- Damage to fabric material of pilot seats
- Wakening of harness units
- Nick marks on engine blades due to dust particles
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