The Indian Air Force is definitely one of a kind in the world. What makes it so unique is the varied mix of aircraft its inventory comprises of, which makes it the most diverse force in the sky. Its family members include the Russian Migs, Sukhois, the brilliant Mirage 2000s and Jaguars, and the indigenous Tejas. However, aging machinery, crashes and a painfully slow procurement process has been causing a lot of frost to accumulate on its wings lately. Back in February 2011, six C-130J tactical airlifters were procured from the United States, of which the IAF had earlier lost one during “a tactical low-level training sortie” after it crashed near Gwalior in March 2014, killing five personnel on board.
Now, another C-130J Super Hercules, being flown by Group Captain Jasveen Singh Chatrath, the commanding officer of the elite 77 Squadron (Veiled Vipers) of the IAF, has been left badly-damaged after it crashed into a pole and other structures while taxing on the tarmac in the high-altitude Thoise airfield in Ladakh on December 13th 2016.
Group Captain Chatrath, along with his co-pilot and weapons systems operator, was on a night sortie on the C-130J which was being flown to the military airfield at Thoise, a staging area for the Siachen region, when the accident took place. The IAF, which has kept the incident under wraps till now, has refused to comment on the matter. Sources, however, said the pilots apparently failed to keep the C-130J on the “centreline of the taxiway” after landing at the airfield at an altitude of over 10,000-feet.
According to this report’s source, “They mistook another line to be the centreline (which provides obstacle clearance) at the airfield which has restricted space for manoeuvre. One of the wings and propeller of the aircraft then hit the pole and some other objects with great impact. Whether the centreline and other lines were marked properly and all other factors are being examined by the CoI.”
The Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft and hods the record for the longest continuous production run of any military aircraft in history. India has ordered 13 C-130J’s, of which, 6 have been inducted, while the rest 7 have been reserved for a new squadron to be based at Panagarh in West Bengal.