AN-32 Still Missing: Outdated Technology Hurting Indian Air Force?


File photo of the same Indian Air Force AN-32 (K-2743) that’s currently missing over the Bay of Bengal. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/ShivAroor/status/756476107944300548">@ShivAroor</a>)
File photo of the same Indian Air Force AN-32 (K-2743) that’s currently missing over the Bay of Bengal. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@ShivAroor)

AN-32 Still Missing: Outdated Technology Hurting Indian Air Force?

An Indian Air Force aircraft went missing on Friday morning while on its way from an airbase near Chennai to Port Blair.

The aircraft was an Antonov AN-32 – an almost three-decade-old cargo flight or a transporter. And that particular aircraft, K2743, had reported technical snags three times in July alone.

Some Twitter users quickly pointed out its outdated technology.

But, of course, there’s more to this military transport vehicle. For a start, there are an estimated 80 AN-32 aircraft operational in India – and the first batch came into use in 1984.

How Fast, Capable and Safe Is AN-32?

The Indian Air Force describes the AN-32 aircraft as a “twin engine turboprop, medium tactical transport aircraft of Russian origin.”

The transporter typically carries a crew of five, and has capacity to carry 39 paratroopers. The maximum load is as much as 6.7 tonnes and the maximum cruise speed is 530 km/hr.

Bharat Rakshak, a website devoted to discussing India’s military affairs, notes that the AN-32 aircraft “form the backbone of the IAF’s medium lift capabilities.” However, the website adds that the type has been majorly affected by non-procurement of spares in the past – and is likely to be in the future.

The AN-32s were hit hard by the chaos in the ex-USSR as spares became harder to obtain. In response to these problems, the IAF successfully fitted several AN-32s with AN-12 power plants upon the retirement of the latter, and put a number airframes into storage. Although the spares problem is no longer as acute as in the early 1990s, the IAF has seen fit to keep the type flying with four operational squadrons and prevent wear and tear on the rest.  

But its retirement won’t be all that easy for the Air Force.

The retirement of these aircraft in the near future is bound to affect the IAF airlift capabilities. The AN-32s will also need replacements by the end of the decade as spares become harder to come by and airframe life will rapidly expire. 

Flying High Across the World

Nicknamed ‘Sutlej’ by the Air Force, AN-32 is usually deployed to travel to airbases – from Bengaluru to Leh – to deliver supplies to army outposts. And, across the world, more than 240 aircraft are operational – from India and Sri Lanka to Columbia, Peru, Mexico and Afghanistan.

(With inputs from PTI, Indian Air Force website and Bharat Rakshak.)

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