Tuesday, 23 April 2013

MoD to resolve IAF-HAL fight over trainer aircraft

NEW DELHI: Even as the criticality of imparting proper training to rookie pilots hangs in the balance, IAF and defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics have locked horns on the acquisition of new basic trainer aircraft (BTA). The defence ministry will soon have to step in to resolve the tussle, one way or the other. 
Upset with the huge delay in development of the indigenous BTA, IAF has now formally asked the MoD to approve its acquisition case for 37 more Swiss Pilatus PC-7 trainers to add to the 75 such planes already ordered for Rs 2,896 crore last year.
A miffed HAL, however, wants MoD to reject the proposal. Contending its under-development HTT-40 aircraft will meet all the BTA requirements of IAF, the indigenous aircraft manufacturer says it will prove cheaper than the Swiss aircraft in the long run. 
But IAF is very doubtful about HAL delivering the BTA either in time or in a cost-effective manner. “As per our calculations, each HTT-40 will be costlier than Pilatus by Rs 2-5 crore,” said an IAF officer. 
The force, in fact, says it would be better if HAL “junked” its fledgling HTT-40 programme to “fully concentrate” on the Sitara intermediate jet trainer (IJT), which has been in the making for over a decade but is still not operational yet. 
Overall, IAF requires 181 BTA, 85 IJTs and 106 advanced jet trainers (AJTs) for Stage-I, II and III training of rookie pilots. The advanced training issue is already settled with India progressively inducting 123 British Hawk AJTs contracted in an overall project worth around Rs 16,000 crore. 
IAF went in for Pilatus after its training went haywire when all the 114 piston-engine HPT-32 aircraft, which long served as the BTA, were grounded in August 2009 after a crash killed the pilot. 
Equally obsolete Kiran Mark-II aircraft, numbering around 80, are currently being used for both Stage-I and II training. “We can stretch the Kirans for Stage-II till 2014-2015. If the IJT is not ready by then, we will be forced to send batches abroad for intermediate training,” said the officer.
IAF will begin its first course on the Pilatus trainers in July, by when it would have received 14 of them. The force wants to gradually ramp up training for each fighter pilot to 254 hours, with the first 65 on the Pilatus, 82 on the IJTs and 107 on the Hawks. 
Over 39% of the 1,010 crashes recorded by IAF since 1970, after all, have been attributed to “human error (aircrew)”, often the result of inadequate training. “Technical defects”, caused by ageing machines and shoddy maintenance, is the other equally big killer.
source: TOI

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