New Delhi : The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has slammed the government for risking human lives by allowing the Indian Air Force (IAF) to fly the vintage Russian IL fleet bought in the 80s well past the expiry of their prescribed technical life, more so due to delay in their servicing and repairs.
In a report tabled in Parliament on Friday, the CAG also expressed concern over the IAF’s overall operational readiness affected for want of the airfields for the takeoff of the air-to-air refuelling IL-78 aircraft. The IAF identified 10 airfields for the purpose back in December 2007 but none still has the optimal runway length of 11,480 to 15,022 feet as all runways are below 10,000 feet.
The defence ministry wriggled out saying these aircraft were due for overhaul in 2018-19 when their engines will be upgraded to require shorter runways for the takeoff. The CAG said this upgradation of engines will take several years to fructify and until then the air-to-air capability of IL-78 fleet will remain constrained.
The CAG wondered why the government did not take care of the IL-76 and IL-78 heavy duty transport aircraft and allowed those to be flown without overhaul despite their great usefulness in transporting men and material during war and peace, moving them to remote and inaccessible areas and also using them for evacuation of people during emergencies like natural calamities, casualty or conflict.
“On an average, these aircraft flew 107 hours without the second overall even when their prescribed life had expired and extension of life was yet to be duly approved. By doing so, the IAF had taken an operational risk, besides risk to the air assets and human life,” the CAG said.