Pilatus Aircraft confirmed that the Indian Air Force (IAF) has chosen the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II as its new basic trainer. The Swiss company values the contract, signed on May 24, at more than $525 million. It includes 75 aircraft, an integrated ground-based training system and logistics support. Deliveries will begin in the last quarter of this year.
The contract includes an option for Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) to license-build a further 106 of the turboprops. Pilatus expressed optimism that HAL will exercise the option within the stipulated three-year period. The company also confirmed that the deal also includes a 30-percent offset agreement. The PC-7 was in competition with the Grob G-120 TP, Hawker Beechcraft T-6C Texan II, Korean Aerospace KT-1 and the Polish PZL 130 Orlik (offered via Airbus Military).
The IAF’s new purchase follows the grounding of the 114 HAL HPT-32 piston-engine basic trainers in the wake of a spate of crashes. Pilots are currently being trained on 81 HAL Kiran Mk II intermediate jet trainers. More than a third of the 1,000-plus IAF crashes since 1970 have been attributed to “human error,” largely due to inadequate training. The Kirans, due to be retired at the end of this year, are supposed to be replaced by the HAL HJT-36 IJT (intermediate jet trainer), but an IAF official told AIN that the HJT-36 is behind schedule.
Pilatus said recently that the strength of the Swiss currency has “dramatically eroded” its margins, but the company still reported increased revenue and profits for last year. Also, it has just secured an equally valuable order from Saudi Arabia for PC-21s. Pilatus has now sold nearly 1,000 turboprop trainers worldwide.