Saturday, July 25, 2009

Nearly half of Russian air-to-air missiles with IAF have homing, ageing problems: CAG report

New Delhi:Putting a big question mark on the performance of the Russian beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missiles with the Indian Air Force, an audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has noted that nearly half the missiles tested either did not home in on targets during evaluations or failed ground tests because they were ageing much before their shelf lives.

The R 77 (RVV-AE) BVR missiles, fitted on board the Su-30 MKIs, MiG-29s and MiG-21 Bisons, were bought from Russia starting 1996. More than 2,000 missiles were ordered after the Kargil conflict and 1,000 have been delivered.

The CAG report, which will be released soon, is based on evaluations of the missile — its range is close to 90 km — during ground tests, inspections and test firing by the IAF. The missiles were bought at a “cost of Rs 2 crore each” but their failure during tests, says the CAG report, has affected the “operational preparedness” of the IAF.

“All figures in the report are based on air force records. Everything is verified by the IAF,” an official said.

The problem with the missiles was referred to Russia and several teams subsequently visited India to rectify faults. IAF officers familiar with the missiles confirmed that this has been a problem area for long. “It is a known fact that the missiles do not work as we would like them to. Periodic tests that are carried out when they are in storage show their dismal state. We also have problems with spare parts,” said a retired officer who was closely associated with the matter.

Former Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy said: “When the missiles were bought, they were top of the line, world class systems that no other country had. As we did not have our own testing facilities, they had to be tested in Russia. The question to be asked is whether the government approved testing facilities for the missiles in India.”

The IAF has for long enjoyed an edge over Pakistan due to its inventory of BVR air-to-air missiles. In an article on the Pakistani side of the Kargil war — it was published in The Indian Express — the then PAF Director (Operations) Kaiser Tufail admitted that the presence of the BVR missiles with the IAF kept away the Pakistani F-16s from disrupting aerial bombing being carried out by India near the Line of Control.

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