(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)
Two Air Force TEST PILOTS, Squadron Leaders Abrol and Negi, crashed to death, more aptly, burnt to death, in upgraded Mirage 2000 by HAL Bengluru.
The cost of upgrade of one Mirage 2000 is estimated at R.344 crores. Add to it, the cost of Mirage 2000. The sum of the two would be roughly Rs.364 crores. And, the HAL has until now upgraded only 7 fighters during the last 7-years.
Add to it, the cost of two Test Pilots of squadron leaders rank cannot be estimated in real rupee terms since such experts cannot be easily replaced.
Thus, the sum of the machine and the two pilots would far exceed Rs.500 crores. What a significant loss? Yet, there is hardly any concern expressed at the highest level.
And, the two pilots killed due to gross technical incompetence and inefficiency of its hierarchy. No accountability? All those responsible for the gruesome death by burning of two test pilots must be thrown out of the HAL sans pension and other benefits.
Can the labour union of the HAL and the top management own up gracefully and dismiss the personnel responsible for the fighter crash killing two test pilots?
Recently in October 2018, RG rushed to HAL to meet working and retired HAL employees amid the Rafale controversy for not getting off-set contract and assured to work with them to make HAL more effective to gain political mileage.
Why is Rahul Ghandy (RG) silent over the killing of test pilots by HAL? Surely, RG should be in the forefront for seeking the “Heads of Top Honcho’s of HAL” to roll! RGs silence over the issue is simple. He cannot criticize HAL authorities having upheld their competence and capability to assemble the ‘Rafale’ besides the ‘Off-set’ controversy.
Surely, the least RG should have done is to what he is best nowadays (a la Trump) to ‘tweet’ grief and sympathy to the bereaved families. RGs failure to extend even basic sympathy to the bereaved families clearly reflects his shameful or disgraceful attitude to uniformed personnel in real service of the nation as opposed to fraudsters claiming to be in service of the society.
For RGs muted posture over the murder of 2-test pilots can only be attributed to the fact that the ‘murder” due to technical incompetence of men in uniform is condonable since men in uniform are dispensable or disposable due to their lack of vote bank clout?
In contrast, Rajiv Chandrasekhar, BJP MP, stated “My sources say aircraft was on 2nd acceptance airtest after upgrade. One oleo (wheel) came off during take-off and it veered off runaway. Pilots ejected both parachutes caught fire in the debris of the aircraft. If families want accountability from HAL, will ensure legal help for them”.
Most important, Former Admiral Arun Prakash, a Naval Navigator, stated “The Mirage was not flown by ordinary pilots; these were superbly trained IAF’s Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) test pilots. Military has for decades flown poor quality HAL machines and often paid with young lives but not reckoning for HAL management. Time to focus on the leadership and Directors of this giant PSU.”
Furthermore, he stated, “HAL bashing may be justified to a point, but it is time to question elected representatives too. 35 Defense Ministers have overseen the giant PSUs since 1947. While pampering its union, none demanded quality, productivity and aeronautical innovation of HAL or hand-picked a dynamic CEO.”
Taking a cue from Arun Prakash, none should be surprised if RG clamors in the ongoing Lok Sabha session for the present Defense Minister to resign or even ask Modi to resign.
What about the abject failure of Defense Parliamentary Standing Committee’s periodic or regular annual review of the premier PSUs? Also, the Comptroller Auditor General’s annual reports are mostly superficial and perfunctory.
Politics bizarre as it may, the realities are clear. Almost all the Defense PSUs and Ordnance Production Units have failed to deliver state-of-the-art combat equipment through innovation.
Poor leadership, management and excessive labor union politicization have been the bane of all Defense PSUs.
Reiterating the obvious, almost all behemoths are today paralyzed or collapsed. Unless there is dynamic political intervention to reset them on the right lines, none should expect them to deliver what the armed forces want to wage future wars.