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Fernandes faces MiG crash heat

New Delhi, Oct. 9: Defence minister George Fernandes was today questioned on the rising number of crashes of even the upgraded MiG-21 Bis aircraft.

Two aircraft of the MiG-21 Bis (also called Bison) crashed on September 9 even as the first squadron of the upgraded aircraft was being formed.

Members of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Defence asked if the Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance was doing its job.

One member pointed out that there were a total of 88 MiG-21s crashing since 1998. More than 25 pilots were killed and the damage has been estimated to be worth more than Rs 1,100 crore.

What is more, the members said, even the upgraded aircraft — that are treated as new by the force — had crashed. Flying ace Squadron Leader Prashant Bundela succumbed to injuries after a crash earlier this year.

The MiG-21s form a bulk of the air force’s fighting force with an estimated 20 squadrons. The MiG-21 is originally of 1960s vintage but the Bison variant is of the 1970s. Under a 1997 agreement with the Russians, 125 aircraft are being upgraded for about Rs 600 crore.

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