HAL Edged Out In Trainer Competitions

AIN Defense Perspective » April 4, 2014
The Indian Air Force has released an RFI for the acquisition of 106 Pilatus PC-7 Mk II basic trainers, in addition to the 75 it ordered in 2012 to replace the HAL HPT-32. (Photo: Pilatus Aircraft)
April 3, 2014, 11:54 AM

Impatient with delays in inducting the HJT-36 Sitara intermediate jet trainer from government-owned defense manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), the Indian air force has issued a request for information (RFI) for Stage II intermediate jet trainers. The Indian Air Force (IAF) requires 85 IJTs, and the cutoff date for RFI response is April 4.

Specifications for the lightweight two-seat, single-jet IJT include: ejection seats; tricycle landing gear; a ferry range of at least 1,500 km; 1,000 kg of external load; five hardpoints; the capability to employ a lightweight gun/gun pod with ammunition for at least five seconds of firing time; reusable rocket pods; and the ability to carry at least four 250-kg retarded or ballistic bombs.

The IAF and HAL have also crossed swords over the Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40 (HTT-40) basic trainer, about which the IAF has expressed reservations given its slow development. Tired of waiting for the HTT-40, the service has released an RFI for the acquisition of 106 more Pilatus PC-7 Mk II basic trainers. These would be in addition to the 75 PC-7s ordered in 2012 as an urgent requirement following the grounding of the obsolescent, piston-engined HAL HPT-32. “The loss of 17 aircraft and 19 pilots had resulted in pilots losing confidence in the safety and performance of the HPT-32,” a defense official told AIN at the time. The cutoff date for responses to the basic-trainer RFI is April 21.

Of the 75 PC-7 Mk IIs, 32 have been delivered, Jim Roche, Pilatus Aircraft vice president for government aviation, told AIN. The offsets clause for the contract, for which HAL is the prime contractor, includes maintenance-related transfer of technology. The RFI for the new PC-7 Mk IIs stipulates a joint venture for license production between an Indian vendor and Pilatus, with a certain number initially to be supplied in flyaway condition. The urgency of the requirement is clearly stated in the RFI, as deliveries of aircraft and equipment are to start by 2015-16 and be completed by 2020-21. Field evaluation trials are unlikely to be required since the PC-7 Mk II is already operational.

PC-7 Mk IIs are to be supplied along with the requisite tools, test equipment, publications, ground-based training systems (including fixed-base full-motion simulator, cockpit procedure trainer and avionics part-task trainer) and spares. “The tools, testers and spares must be adequate for undertaking up to ‘Intermediate’ level servicing in the IAF,” said the RFI.

Indian pilots currently graduate from the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II basic turboprop trainer to the ageing Hindustan Jet Trainer 16 (HJT-16) Kiran Mk I and Mk II, which are due to be retired by year-end. Students then progress to the BAE Systems Hawk Mk 132 advanced jet trainer.

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