Murphy's Law: August 26, 2003


India has admitted that it's high losses of MiG-21 aircraft are mainly due to poor maintenance by of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). In the last twelve years, the Indian Air Force has lost about a third of it's MiG-21 fighters to accidents. That's 273 aircraft. HAL has a contract to provide maintenance for the MiG-21s. Attempts to deal with the problem have not been very successful, although in the last three years, the loss rate has declined a bit (to 17-18 aircraft a year, before that it was 24-25 a year). Until recently, most of the blame was directed at Russia, the designer of the aircraft and supplier of most of the components (many of the aircraft were assembled in India by HAL.) The Russians have pointed out that no other user of MiG-21s has such a high loss rate, and blamed Indian maintenance. HAL will bring in Russian maintenance inspectors to help revise Indian procedures. Poor maintenance of Indian military equipment is nothing new. Management systems in India are known for lower standards than in the West. Multinationals must pay careful attention to the training and development of Indian supervisors and managers in order to achieve Western standards. While this works with most multinational firms, and many privately owned Indian companies, the large state owned operations like HAL are rife with corruption and lax management. The huge operational losses of the MiG-21 has been a growing scandal, particularly since over a hundred pilots have died in these accidents, and several billion dollars worth of aircraft have been destroyed. But it took a dozen years for the true culprit to be exposed. And there's no assurance that HAL can clean up its act. HAL is not the first enterprise controlled by the Ministry of Defense to be caught screwing up, and later to be found incapable of cleaning up its act. HAL is a huge operation, in business since 1940, but 95 percent of its sales have been to the Indian government.


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