Express consulted several serving and retired Sukhoi pilots, engineers in HAL, current and former IAF officials and even experts with military airworthiness to verify the findings: If Sukhois are exposed to the sun for a long period, malfunctions will occur. When contacted for a response, all that an email reply from IAF’s media managers said was: “Maintenance shelters have been procured at our airbases solely on the IAF’s initiative and more of these are being procured to cater to the varied environmental conditions of our country.”
HAL says it had communicated to the IAF the need for shelters. The matter was also taken up during quality assurance meets and Commanders’ Conference.HAL claims that all Sukhois at their Nashik Division are kept under shelters, while the IAF uses canvas to protect them from UV rays, rain and dust. “UV rays will have faster ageing and hardening effect on rubber and non-metallic parts, which can lead to premature failure in the long run. Canvas bars UV rays but not heat, which can harm avionics parts,” sources said. A Sukhoi pilot said dust particles will get deposited on engine blades if they are exposed to heat and dust.