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Saturday, December 17, 2011

SUKHOI CRASH: Flaws in Russian design or holes in HAL's quality standards? | Crashed fighter was on a maiden 'air test' after servicing |

 Frontline fighters Su-30MKIs being manufactured under license at HAL's Nasik Division in Maharashtra. Photo: Tarmak007

By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: The Sukhoi (Su-30 MKI) that crashed near Pune on December 13 was on its first air test (fly test) after it underwent the mandatory servicing. The aircraft had already completed 400 hours of flying and had to do undergo a second servicing (after every 200 hours) as per the Indian Air Force (IAF) norms. Sources with the investigation team tell Express that the fighter crashed after oscillating – a rare phenomenon if the platform was not under control. “The pilots couldn't control the aircraft and it crashed without any warning, clearly pointing towards system and quality issues,” sources said.
This was the third crash of the elite Sukhoi jets of IAF, with the first one occurring on April 2009 following the pilots suspected to have inadvertently switched-off the fly-by-wire and the second one in November 2009, with fire being reported inside the aircraft.
Sources in Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) say that there were quality related issues with the basic design (Russian). “The issues with the design are known even to the IAF and you can't blame HAL alone. The current crash is suspected to be a fly-by-wire malfunction and we are investigating. The flight data recorder (FDR) along with some burnt parts of the aircraft have come to Nasik. We will decode the FDR to find the exact cause,” sources said.
The crashed fighter was manufactured at HAL's Nasik division, during 2009-10 period, as part of the phase-3 production (partial raw-material, partial Russian). Two Russian specialists are now part of the investigation team, with one looking into the fly-by-wire systems and another the test-flight parameters. “There's a lot of redundancy built in Sukhoi. There are four parallel wires and in case one fails there are three more that should have worked. Is it a question of the design flaw or HAL's quality standards?,” sources ask.
HAL sources claim that they have made lot of improvements to the Su-30 MKI. “There were problems with the pipeline and looms (electrical harnes). Thirty (30) Sukhois were grounded a few months back due to defects in the assembly done by the Russians. They admitted the mistakes and identified 12 aircraft out of the 30 for rectification,” sources said. The recent crash cost the nation Rs 250-crore. HAL's main profits come from Nasik Division.
42 ADDITIONAL ORDERS LIKELY: Amidst the question marks over quality issues, both from Russian and HAL side, India is all set to place an order for additional 42 Su-30MKIs. This is in addition to the initial order of 50 (which came from Russsia), plus the 180 (140 + 40) being done in various phases. “The additional order of 42  will be taken up for production from next year onwards. These may not be the upgraded versions (Super Sukhois). A final decision will be taken soon (upgraded or not) soon,” sources said. So far, the IAF has taken deliveries of 103 Sukhois built under license by  HAL.
Currently India is also holding talks with Russia for the upgradation of the existing fleet. “The plan is to upgrade 100 aircraft. A team is already in Russia and we are sorting out software and radar-related issues,” source said.
(Copyright@The New Indian Express)

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