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Warplanes: September 14, 2003
   
India is bringing it's military aircraft accident rate down. It's now seven crashes per 100,000 hours flown (compared to 4.5 for all NATO air forces.) The Indian rate has been over ten for many years. The major problem is the unreliable Russian engines it uses in most of its warplanes. India has bought some of the latest Russian jet engines to power their new Russian Su-30 warplanes, but have again run into reliability problems. The AL-31 engines (each Su-30 has two) were originally rated as good for 3,500 hours of use, later increased to 4,500 hours. But the critical factor was how many hours the engine could be run before being pulled for an overhaul. The AL-31s are developing problems before they hit 700 hours of use, instead of their expected overhaul point of 1,000 hours. Ten years ago, India had similar problems with Russian MiG-29s, where half the engines were developing problems before they had been used 150 hours, and over 26 percent of the engines were will operating when they reached their expected 300 hour overhaul points. Western military engines typically operate for 1000-1500 hours before needed an overhaul. Russia knows that it has to increase the reliability of its military (and civilian) jet engines if it wants it engine manufacturers to remain competitive. The Russian firms are making progress, but their promises are running way ahead of their actual performance.