Saturday, March 17, 2012
Sukhoi gets special shelters at Lohegaon
‘All-weather maintenance structures will provide protection to the aircraft’
The coming summer might be relatively cooler for Sukhoi aircraft fleet at city's Indian Air Force (IAF) station in Lohegaon. The station, a home to two squadrons of the country's frontline fighter, has installed All-Weather Maintenance Shelters for the aircraft parked at the station which will protect them from harmful ultraviolet rays of direct sun. So far, the aircraft would be covered by canvas while parked on the tarmac.
Speaking to The Indian Express, an IAF officer said, "Maintenance shelters have been installed at IAF Lohegaon station and have been in place now for about a month or so. The metal-fibre structures are capable of accommodating one aircraft each." Two squadrons of Sukhoi-30 MKI, fighter No. 30 squadron - Rhinos and No. 20 squadron - Lightenings, are stationed at the IAF Lohegaon Station. Third squadron, No. 31 squadron - Lions, was relocated to Jodhpur in September. Maintenance shelters have also been erected at other IAF bases where Sukhois are stationed. The light weight structures are such that even if they fall, the aircraft systems are not damaged.
Sections of the media had reported that the IAF decided to put the maintenance shelters in the aftermath of the Sukhoi-30 MKI crash near Pune. Media reports had also suggested that the crash was a result of exposing the air dominance fighter to harmful ultraviolet rays which resulted in damaging the aircraft's critical systems but the officials rubbished the reports saying the process was initiated about a year ago. A quick search revealed that the IAF had started the process for shelters in December 2010, a year prior to the Pune crash.
"One cannot put two plus two in such cases. If UV rays are to be given a thought, then they are more direct when the aircraft is flying at higher attitudes. The plan has been under consideration for quite some time. In fact, we had made such shelters a part of the original project when we were drafting the contract for Hawk aircraft," said an IAF officer.
Commenting on the development, Air Marshal Bhushan Gokhale, former vice-chief of air staff said, "Today, technological advancements are such that paints, coatings on the aircraft protect the machine to a great extent as against earlier ones. However, in the longer run, this is certainly a step in the right direction given that the structures provide protection to the aircraft from all types of environment besides human comfort and avoiding direct heating of sensors due to direct sunlight."