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Author Topic: Almost grounded. The IAf's frontline fighters faces a spare tyres crunch.  (Read 4039 times)

Offline tigershark

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Almost grounded. The IAf's frontline fighters faces a spare tyres crunch.
Burning Rubber
Almost grounded. The IAf's frontline fighters faces a spare tyres crunch. ...
Saikat Datta
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Out Of Wind

    * Su-30 MKI has been hit by a severe tyre shortage. Supplies from Russian manufacturers inadequate.
    * A clause in Sukhoi contract makes it mandatory for India to source spares, including tyres, only from Russian firms
    * The indent process followed by the defence ministry is a long-winded one

Since October last year, the ace pilots of the IAF's frontline Sukhoi-30 MKI, the Russian-manufactured fighter aircraft with nuclear strike capability, have spent more time on the ground than in the air. What's keeping the high-flyers idle is an acute shortage of tyres for an aircraft that is all set to become the backbone of the IAF by 2014. So serious is the supply crunch that in January and February this year, the IAF inventory for the Su-30 was down to a mere 10 tyres. The tyres, of course, are specially made for the fighter aircraft and designed for high wear and tear. A senior IAF officer told Outlook ominously, "If we don't have adequate number of tyres, our aircraft will not be in a position to deliver in an emergency." Crucially, a clause in the Sukhoi procurement agreement makes it mandatory that spare parts, including tyres, for the aircraft, unless indigenously manufactured in India, must be purchased from a firm registered in Russia.

Some crisis buying now has ensured that the tyre inventory has come up to a hundred. But that's still far short of the minimum three years' reserves the IAF has to hold as per mandatory requirement. With such acute shortage, the IAF's 60 Sukhoi fighters (about four-and-a-half squadrons) have had to curtail their flying hours. Incidentally, every aircraft requires four tyres.

Indeed, a defence ministry delegation had landed in Russia last November (just before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit) to try and resolve the crisis. Bimal Julka, joint secretary (air), tried in vain to sort out the issue with his Russian counterparts. Air headquarter sources say the Sukhoi tyre issue was part of the agenda when the PM visited, but both sides stuck to their positions and the negotiations meandered.

Sources say matters came to a head by January when Air HQ discovered its Su-30 inventory had depleted to very low levels. With alarm bells ringing in Vayu Bhavan, orders were placed for an additional batch to tide over the crisis. The shortfall had built up over time as the indenting process and delivery slowed down, victim to a game of attrition brewing between buyer and seller. Says a senior IAF officer: "We are on a hand-to-mouth existence. We must hold at least three years' supply of tyres, but we have just a year's supply. Aircraft serviceability is down to absurd levels."

In response to a questionnaire from Outlook, the IAF spokesman confirmed that "stocks of the Su-30 MKI nose wheel tyres were low during the month of December '07 and January '08". He also confirmed that one of the key issues discussed by the defence ministry delegation to Russia was the "supply of Su-30 MKI tyres". However, he added that "adequate" arrangements had been made and the shortage of tyres "did not affect the flying commitments of the operational squadrons". The spokesman admitted there could be a long "lead time" in importing spares and "stock holdings would therefore be fluctuating vis-a-vis desired levels".

Meanwhile, the IAF's other frontline aircraft, the Mirage 2000, is also in a similar kind of predicament. Differences in interpreting the defence procurement rules between the financial advisor (air headquarters) and the air officer maintenance (AOM), Air Marshal K.M. Sundara, has led to the shortage here. While the tyre problem of the Mirages is not as serious, it's an indication of the malaise that defence procurement procedure suffers from.


Offline Michaelvulky

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Re: Almost grounded. The IAf's frontline fighters faces a spare tyres crunch.
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2023, 05:57:27 PM »
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