Need to raise the bar of safety


The re­cent ac­ci­dent of the C-130J Su­per Her­cules of the In­dian Air Force killing four of­fi­cers and a ju­nior com­mis­sioned of­fi­cer has brought up the topic of safety stan­dards in the armed forces. Though the cause of the ac­ci­dent is yet to be es­tab­lished, the is­sue of fol­low­ing the stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures (SOPs) is be­com­ing key in the armed forces, par­tic­u­larly in the light of the se­ries of ac­ci­dents in the In­dian Navy.

Not just the armed forces, re­cently the US Federal Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion down­graded In­dia to Cat­e­gory 2 un­der its In­ter­na­tional Avi­a­tion Safety As­sess­ment (IASA) pro­gramme. A Cat­e­gory 2 rat­ing sig­ni­fies an as­sess­ment that In­dia’s safety over­sight regime does not meet in­ter­na­tional safety stan­dards.

This calls for all the stake­hold­ers, both in the aero­space and de­fence sec­tors, to relook at the SOPs and en­sure that they are ad­hered to. That some of the equip­ment could be out­dated is an­other is­sue.

In this is­sue of SP’s M.A.I., we have re­ported these in­ci­dents and un­der­scored the im­por­tance of safety, even as the govern­ment has em­barked upon mil­i­tary ac­qui­si­tions. While equip­ment is the core of any armed force, the other im­por­tant el­e­ment is the per­son­nel whose needs and as­pi­ra­tions have to be ad­dressed.

The way for­ward is through joint ven­tures, part­ner­ships with for­eign com­pa­nies to get the best of tech­nolo­gies, while de­vel­op­ing the de­fence in­dus­trial base. In the in­ter­views in this is­sue with heads of dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies, it is be­com­ing clearer that these orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fa­tur­ers (OEMs) want to en­ter into strate­gic part­ner­ships to take their busi­ness for­ward, while ac­knowl­edg­ing In­dia’s in­di­geni­sa­tion as­pi­ra­tions. The Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of In­dra In­dia, Vic­tor Munoz Tor­res has aptly said that In­dia is hun­gry for the best sys­tems and that In­dra had the req­ui­site where­withal in terms of skilled hu­man and man­u­fac­tur­ing re­sources and saw huge po­ten­tial for part­ner­ship. Sim­i­larly, in an­other in­ter­view the Safran In­dia CEO Stephane Lau­ret un­der­scores the point of trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy, in­di­cat­ing that OEMs are very clear about the fu­ture based on part­ner­ships.

One key point, as in­di­cated by Amit B. Kalyani, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Kalyani Group, is that In­dia cer­tainly needs to bring fo­cus back to man­u­fac­tur­ing. De­fence and aero­space and cor­rect use of off­sets can help give the re­quired im­pe­tus to man­u­fac­tur­ing.

In SP’s Ex­clu­sives, we have in­di­cated how the armed forces are step­ping on the gas to get the best of equip­ment from over­seas as there have been de­lays in pro­grammes within the coun­try. A case in point is the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) pro­gramme of the Hindustan Aero­nau­tics Limited (HAL) which has run into rough weather.

In his frank and forth­right view­point, Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch has opined how im­por­tant in­ter­nal se­cu­rity is. The na­tion’s in­volve­ment in forth­com­ing elec­tions has ap­par­ently di­verted the at­ten­tion from the ac­cel­er­at­ing in­ter­nal se­cu­rity threats. He goes on to add that ter­ror­ists would have no com­punc­tions in con­duct­ing the chemical, bi­o­log­i­cal, ra­di­o­log­i­cal and nu­clear (CBRN) at­tacks in In­dia, which can be even more lethal if cou­pled with sui­cide bomb­ing. This is no time to be com­pla­cent.

Happy read­ing!

Jayant Baran­wal Pub­lisher & Edi­tor-in-Chief

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