New Delhi (Sputnik): Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has no plans to phase out the AN-32 transport aircraft from the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Responding to a question raised by a member during Friday's Budget Session in India’s Parliament, the defence minister said the AN-32 aircraft, a turboprop twin-engined military transport aircraft, continues to serve as an integral part of the transport fleet of the IAF. However, he said the government intends to upgrade the entire fleet with better avionics and airframe reinforcement in phases.
He also said these aircraft have a “useful residual life”.
Responding to another part of the same question about the AN-32 having been involved in a series of accidents, the minister said that since 2016 there have been only two accidents – one on 22 July 2016 while flying over the Bay of Bengal and the second on 3 June 2019 in India’s northeastern Arunachal Pradesh state. The first crash claimed the lives of 29 people, while the second crash claimed the lives of 13.
Defence Minister Singh’s clarification about the future of the AN-32 came almost a week after IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa said on Monday 24 June on the sidelines of a seminar held in the central Indian city of Gwalior that the AN-32 aircraft would continue to be deployed for rescue and relief missions in the mountainous areas of the country until more modern aircraft can be procured.
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa also said the IAF is in the process of finding a modern replacement for the AN-32 aircraft, which could perform other functions.
The Indian Air Force is said to be looking to improve its rescue capabilities through the purchase of All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) following the aircraft crash that took place earlier this month. All Terrain Vehicles are already being used by the Indian Army and the country’s paramilitary forces. These vehicles can be equipped with basic rescue and medical equipment.
Currently, India has a five-year $397.7 million contract with Ukraine to repair and upgrade 105 AN-32 aircraft. Of these 105 aircraft, 45 are being upgraded in Ukraine and the remaining 60 in India.