NEW DELHI: IAF is going in for a new kind of sophisticated radar but it will not be used to monitor Pakistani fighters or Chinese missiles. Instead, it will locate, track and monitor birds.
With bird hits causing 9% of the over 1,000 aircraft crashes recorded by IAF since 1970, plans are afoot to equip 41 airbases with "avian radars'' over the next couple of years.
Compared to the other reasons for crashes, mainly technical defects (39.5%) and human errors (39%) due to aging aircraft and inadequate pilot training, the risk from birds may be relatively small but it's still a crucial flight safety concern.
Avian radars will ensure data on birds like height, number, collision course and the like is streamed to aircraft in real-time for necessary evasive action. "Military aviation, with its intricate combat manoeuvres, is inherently dangerous. Pilots have to manage many risks at the same time while flying. Even a sparrow can cause a mighty fighter to crash. Avian radars will go a long way in bird strike mitigation,'' said a senior officer.
Avian radars are not all. IAF also has an "ornithology cell'' at the directorate of aerospace safety and conducts regular bird surveys, some by the Bombay Natural History Society, to manage the bird menace. A "bird lab'' is also now being established in collaboration with the National Centre for Cell Science, Pune, for DNA bar-coding of different bird species of the Indian sub-continent. "A barcode library of 26 Indian species has already been developed, with another 50 species to be added to it soon,'' said an official.
Moreover, IAF also wants to procure 72 microlites for carrying out survey of bird activities, monitoring of high-rise structures, garbage and carcass disposal sites which attract birds. A road-map for "environment management of airfield areas (EMAA)'' is also being formalized for bird, wildlife and vegetation management.
With many of its airbases situated in and around cities and towns like Agra, Bareilly, Gwalior, Srinagar and Tezpur, among others, IAF has for long undertaken several bird hazard control measures. These range from `zone guns', automated scarecrows and special frequency transmitters to proper garbage disposal, solid waste management and "risk awareness campaigns'' among the citizenry. "Environment cleaning is also conducted within airbases to deny a habitat for birds and animals. But bird hits still remain a very serious problem,'' he added.