Tuesday, 28 April 2015


The pilot-cockpit ratio of the Indian Air Force, when compared to the U.S and Pakistan, is very low

by Gautam Datt

Not only running short of combat jets, the Indian Air Force (IAF) also does not have enough fighter pilots. The latest report of a parliamentary panel has sounded alarm bells ringing on the acute shortage of fighter pilots in the IAF, claiming that it could be one of the reasons for high rate of accidents.

The IAF claims that its fighter crash rate has marginally improved over the years but it continues to face serious shortage of aircraft. The pilot-cockpit ratio of the Indian Air Force, when compared to the U.S and Pakistan, is very low. The current fighter squadron strength of IAF is 35 against the desired 42. If that was not enough, the shortage of fighter pilots means lesser number of sorties.

In its latest report, the standing committee of Parliament pointed out that it was astonished to learn that IAF’s pilot cockpit ratio was only 0.81 for fighter jets.

Compared to other air forces the situation is really grim. The panel also noted that pilot cockpit ratio in the US is 2:1 and even in Pakistan it is 2.5:1.

The sanctioned pilot to cockpit ration in IAF is 1.25 for fighters, 1.5 for transport planes and 1 for helicopters.

“The committee takes serious view of the fact that our squadron strength is already short of what has been authorized by the Government and moreover, insufficiency in number of available pilots in the Air Force further deteriorates our operational capabilities,” said the parliament panel headed by Major General (retd.) B.C Khanduri.

The IAF reported 83 accidents between May 2007 and January 2015. The panel also claimed that there was a problem in the training of pilots which is contributing to frequent accidents.

“From the above information, it is evident that there is either lacuna in training that is being imparted to our pilots and support officials or the systems installed are technically illequipped,” said the panel adding that onus of accident was on the senior management of IAF.

The panel has noted that the fighter squadron strength of IAF will reduced to a paltry 25 by 2022.

To overcome this critical shortage, the NDA Government recently went for a fast-track purchase of 36 French Rafale multi-role jets after scrapping the acquisition programme for 126 of these fighters initiated by the UPA government.

The Air Force hopes to increase the number of Su-30 MKIs in the coming years to cope with the deficiency. It is also looking at the induction of Rafales and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) before the proposed deal with Russia.


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