March 30, 2009:
An Indian Navy Ka-28 helicopter was recently lost at sea during a training mission. It was later discovered the helicopter was two years overdue for a mandatory refurbishment and maintenance. India bought 13 Ka-28s in 1984, two years after they entered service in the Soviet (later Russian) navy. Since then, four of those 13 have been lost to accidents. The 12 ton Ka-28 that was recently lost, was due for a midlife refurbishment, in which the helicopter is largely taken apart and worn components are replaced or mended. This enables the helicopter to serve for another decade or more.
The Indian military has long been criticized for the way they handle their budget. Aside from the corruption (usually during procurement of major items), there's the tendency to skimp on maintenance. But that eventually manifests itself with equipment breaking down or, worse, being lost in accidents. Several years ago, there was a major stink over the high accident rate for elderly MiG-21 fighters. It turned out to be, like the recent Ka-28 loss, largely a matter of maintaining older aircraft adequately. This is becoming more of an issue as the weapons systems become more complex. Half a century ago, the troops could often patch up elderly weapons, or at least make them look presentable. That is no longer the case, and there is much pressure on the military, both within, and from angry taxpayers, to change their less savory traditions.