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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : This helicopter programme cannot go into a tailspin

 

Source: The Hindu

Prelims: Current events of international importance(south china sea, Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH-Dhruv), INS Garuda, INS Vikrant etc

Mains GS Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global grouping involving India and affecting India’s interests, significance of Maritime security etc

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Dhruv (IN-709)– India’s indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH-Dhruv), in the Indian Navy’s is newly-acquired fleet of ALH Mk-III MRs

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Indian Navy:

  • The Indian Navy was established in 1612 by the East India Company.
  • It is headed by the President of India as its Supreme Commander.
  • Indian Navy’s Motto isSam no Varunah– means that the God of water, Varuna, should be auspicious unto us.

 

Recent incidents:

  • The ‘maritime role’ (MR) helicopter experienced a “sudden loss of power and rapid loss of height” close to the coast of Mumbai in the forenoon.
  • Indian Coast Guard ALH Mk-III MR (CG-855) on a test flight, crashed at Cochin International Airport.

 

Outcome indicators:

  • Investments made in
    • modern survival aids
    • crew training
    • search and rescue
    • crash and salvage operations.
  • All ALH pilots in the Indian armed forces undergo rigorous training in flight simulators.

 

The crash at Kochi:

  • It happened at a time when the services had just begun clearing batches of helicopters to fly.
  • CG-855 is among the first of the 16 Mk-IIIMR inducted by the Coast Guard over the last two years.
  • Impact: It will impact the span and the duration of the ongoing grounding exercise, one of the longest in recent times.

 

Current Issues:

  • Globally, most air accidents (over 80%) are on account of human error.
  • The ALH fleet has had major accidents that have been caused or attributed to critical failure or breakage in the flight control chain.
  • Certification requires a level of reliability and redundancy of these systems to preclude a major failure in the entire lifespan of the fleet.
    • Yet, there have been at least four or five reported cases of a sudden loss of control on the ALH:
      • Breakages in flight control rods (also called ‘boosters’) that provide longitudinal, lateral and collective control.
    • The ditching in Mumbai indicates that not enough has been done to fix serious flaws.

 

Development of Navy:

  • In 1736, Bombay’s Lovji Nusserwanji Wadia: Wadia master shipbuilders constructed superb merchantmen and warships for the British.
  • The first modern, Indian-built merchant vessel, MV Jalusha, joined Seth Walchand’s Scindia Steam Navigation Co. in 1948.
  • Mazagon Docks: delivered the first, license-built frigate, INS Nilgiri, in 1972
  • Cochin Shipyard Ltd.(in 2013): launched India’s largest indigenously designed and built warship-an aircraft carrier-INS Vikrant

 

Issues Involved:

  • The ship’s major systems, including gas-turbine engines, guns, missiles and radars, are imported.
  • Foreign origin of aviation-related facilities such as workshops, aircraft lifts, arrestor-wires and landing-aids, vital for flying operations.
  • The case for IAC-2 remains in limbo: even as China awaits the third ship in its carrier-building programme and envisions a carrier-led Indian Ocean task force.

 

Way Forward

  • The grounding for one-time checks usually follows in the wake of major accidents, it is due to technical reasons and should not be seen as cause for alarm.
  • The regulatory body, the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC-Bengaluru): It has taken a serious view of the Mumbai accident and the control failures on the ALH.
    • It is a step in a forward direction.
  • In the inter-service jostling to meet ambitious ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ targets, no side can afford to lose focus on safety.
  • Both IN-709 and CG-855 are brand-new helicopters, each having flown less than 600 to 800 hours.
    • The fleet cannot remain grounded for long as these helicopters are a lifeline to defense personnel in many remote defense posts;
  • If not fixed in time, possible flaws in the design, production, quality control, or certification will also impact the civil and export potential of the ALH.
  • It makes eminent sense for all stakeholders to work on a war footing to address design and production failures.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Do you think that BIMSTEC is a parallel organization like the SAARC ? What are the similarities and dissimilarities between the two ? How are Indian foreign policy objectives realized by forming this new organization?(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)