25% IAF advanced trainers grounded for want of spare parts, says Antony
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In a major blow for the pilot training programme of the Air Force, it has emerged that almost 25 per cent of the Hawk advanced trainer fleet has been grounded due to severe lack of spares. In a startling disclosure in Parliament, Defence Minister A K Antony admitted that 16 aircraft are on ground for the want of spares.
This has come as a surprise, given that the fleet is relatively new, with the first trainers inducted in 2008. A total of 66 Hawk trainers are currently in service with the IAF and are used for the final stage training of pilots. The grounding of 25 per cent of this fleet has come at a bad time for the IAF, given that it currently has no basic trainer aircraft in service after the grounding of the HPT 32 fleet over two years ago.
Antony said that efforts are on to procure spares for the grounded aircraft but did not go into details of the shortages.
A lack of spares and complaints from the IAF that the trainers have been fitted with old parts has been a recurring headache with the Hawk fleet. As reported by The Indian Express in 2008, the trainers faced several spares-related problems after they were inducted. In fact, the fleet was grounded for a week in May that year after a trainer crashed. While the crash was blamed on pilot error, the IAF complained that it was facing a serious problem of spares with the serviceability rate of the fleet at 40 per cent.
The consistent failure to supply spares on time had led the ministry to impose a fine on British manufacturer BAE Systems in 2010.
In December 2011, a £59 million contract for spares was signed with BAE to smooth out the problems but serious gaps in the support package remain, as revealed by Antony.