Nearly 20% of Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots are doing desk jobs because of a shortage of planes, the BBC has learnt.Growing up, we always thought of the IAF as one of the best in the world. Up there with the US, UK, USSR and China. And certainly better than Pakistan. [The joke used to be that Pakistan might have the latest F-16s from the US but didn't know how to operate them.] The IAF's reputation has suffered, especially with the spate of MiG crashes, giving the ancient MiG-21 the unflattering moniker "The Flying Coffin."
Classified documents seen by the BBC show that in all about a third of the IAF's 2,500 pilots have been assigned ground and administrative duties.
The MiG crashes even inspired a popular Bollywood movie, Rang de Basanti (over-the-top [does one even need to say that?] but enjoyable. I've been wanting to blog on it for a while and just may ... ).
The IAF, of course, has no comment on the BBC story. But with the controversy surrounding the suicide of a woman officer in the Indian Army, and the Army Vice-Chief's comments, this hasn't been a good week for India's military.
Incidentally, one cherished childhood memory, from around when I was 10 or 11, was actually getting to sit in a MiG-21 cockpit. My mom was high-up in the Gujarat IAS cadre, and took me along on a visit to the IAF base near Bhuj. And, to my utter delight, one of the pilots took me out on the tarmac to a parked MiG and let me sit in the cockpit.
So, yeah, that pilot-thing goes back a while. The closest I ever came to it, was a copule of years in the Air Wing of the NCC in school. However, the only thing I got from that was malaria, at an NCC camp at Deolali near Nasik. [Seems the other P took-over at some time :)]