The flawless flying slate of the Indian Sukhoi fleet has now been blemished. But it’s not like the fleet hasn’t had problems in the past. In fact, the fleet has been far from perfect in terms of serviceability. The initial lot of 18 Su-30Ks and ten MKIs had to be briefly grounded as a result of engine issues, that were subsequently put down to design problems. According to reports, the initial batches also experienced a high rate of engine failure. This and a host of other issues made the initial years absolutely bristle with teething troubles. Still, through sheer professionalism — and time-tested perserverence to deal with Russian obstinacy — the IAF ensure an accident-free induction of the aircraft, and rapidly brought it up to the frontline air superiority profile.
There was always a lurking, but unspoken fear about when the first Flanker would go down, if at all. It was always considered the unthinkable. Not so unthinkable after all. A terrible, dark day. I met Wg Cdr Nara briefly once in 2007 during a visit to Air Force Station Sirsa, where he was flying MiG-21s. Rest in peace. Heartfelt condolences to his family. And my commisserations to the flying community for this shocking loss.