Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rs 3-cr flares for IAF jets turn useless

Infra-red flares worth over Rs 3 crore procured for IAF fighter aircraft were rendered useless as their shelf life expired while still in storage on account of slow pace of the project to upgrade MiG-21 Bison. The issue has also revealed contradictory reasons forwarded by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Air Headquarters over the IAF’s inability to utilise the flares that were procured from overseas between 1997 and 2002. In January this year, the IAF accepted that 19,450 flares were destroyed after expiry of their shelf life due to delays in the project. The Air HQs also suggested life-extension clearance on some of the flares still in its inventory.

The MoD stand, on the other hand was that the holding of the flares was necessary due to the prevailing security scenario. Further, the ministry maintained that flares were kept in stock and not released to combat units, as their operational requirement did not arise till 2009. Of the 20,000 flares procured, only 390 were used during the design and development phase of the Bison and subsequent trials and testing. The remaining were rendered useless in 2009. In March 1996, the MoD had concluded a contract for procurement of a Counter Measure Dispensing System (CMDS) that protects aircraft against radar-guided and heat-seeking missiles.

The flares form a part of this system and are used to deflect heat-seeking missiles. The requirement and procurement of the system was projected and undertaken in consonance with the upgrade of 125 Bison aircraft that was originally scheduled to begin in 1998 and conclude in 2001. Additional requirement was projected for installing the CMDS on the MiG-23 as well as the MiG-27 aircraft. It was initially planned to utilise the entire stock of the flares by 2002. The project, however, progressed slowly due to delay in the indigenous development of certain avionic systems and flight testing. The upgrade was finally complete in 2008.


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