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Shocking revelations in the latest CAG report on Mi Series helicopters in the Indian Air Force.

While a lot of coverage in the media will be given to the CAG report pertaining to poor quality of rations for the army — as evident from this statement by the MoS for defence, Mr Pallam Raju — the real alarming story is in the CAG audit about the helicopters of the Indian Air Force. Chapter-1 of CAG Report No. 7 of 2010-11 pertains to the performance audit on Operation and Maintenance of Mi Series Helicopters in IAF (pdf here).

Here are the highlights of the findings of the report.

#1- There was a deficit of 26 per cent in the total availability of helicopters compared to the numbers required for achieving current operational projections. Categorywise shortfalls were most apparent in the case of attack helicopters where the holdings were 46 per cent below the actual requirement.(Paragraph

#2- Despite availability of funds and a specific acquisition programme for the 10th Plan period, IAF was unable to induct even a single helicopter which has adversely affected maintenance of force levels and operational preparedness. (Paragraph

#3- The existing fleet is ageing and nearly 78 per cent of the helicopters have already completed their prescribed life and Total Technical Life extension has been carried out on them elongating their life.(Paragraph

#4- Serviceability levels were low and fell consistently short of the prescribed 75 per cent. Combined with high Aircraft-on-Ground levels, this was indicative of inefficiency in operations, low utilization of Mi series fleet and poor repair and maintenance activities.(Paragraph

#5- Seven helicopters were modified for ‘VIP’ role without approval of the Government. Such modification also lacked justification as a separate specialized communication squadron with adequate helicopter for use by VIPs already existed. Modification of helicopters for VIP/OEP use affected availability of helicopters for operation purpose.(Paragraph

#6- Manpower deployment was not rational with respect to norms fixed per helicopter as there was an overall shortage of pilots ranging from 12 to 27 per cent during 2003-07 while, at the same time, there was an excess of aircrew.(Paragraph

#7- Achievement with regard to engine overhauls and repair in respect of Mi8 and Mi17 helicopters was considerably lower than the tasks fixed. This was due to shortage of spares which resulted from both delayed and inadequate provisioning for these spares. As a consequence, 210 engines were sent abroad for overhaul at a cost of Rs 68.49 crore.(Paragraph

The complete chapter is worth a read. A scary and depressing read. For eg.,

Despite the fact that its own needs were not being met, IAF sent 25 helicopters abroad for participation in UN Missions, allocated another seven for VVIP use and diverted six Mi8 helicopters to the Cabinet Secretariat (Aviation Research Centre). As a result, over all availability was only 61 per cent.

And here is the concluding sentence of the chapter that should induce premature ageing in all well-meaning Indians:

The matter was referred to Ministry in October 2008; their reply was awaited as of February 2010.

Final thought. As fellow blogger Retributions always reminds us, we in India are always ready to pounce on an error of commission but are happy to completely ignore the errors of omission. An error of commission is one where the person responds — invariably with wrong intentions — where they should not. An error of omission, in comparison, is where the person fails to respond when they should.

One is just left wondering if there is any other robust modern democracy in the world which would allow its government and its defence minister to get away with such a criminal error of omission. Ponder.

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