Friday, October 5, 2012

Exclusive! Delay in IJTs, a concern for IAF


Neelam Mathews
Oct 5, 2012

The delay in production of India’s intermediate jet trainer (IJT) by government-owned defense manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has the Indian air force worried as these are to  replace the present ageing trainers Kirans Mk II retiring by 2015, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal N.A.K.Browne  said in an exclusive interview.
The IJT, a stage-II trainer is used for training before pilots advance to the final BAE Hawk Advanced jet trainers- 123 were ordered under two contracts- and another 20 are in the offing to replace the Kiran acrobatic team being by rookie pilots.
India recently ordered 75 Pilatus PC-7 MkII basic trainers as its indigenous obsolescent, single piston-engine HPT-32 basic trainers were grounded. “The loss of 17 aircraft and 19 pilots had resulted in pilots losing confidence in the safety and performance of the aircraft,” a defense official said on condition of anonymity. HPT-32 trainers had a take-off speed of around 200km/h versus the Kirans at 500km/h.
Since the start of its design work in 1997, the IJT has suffered three accidents, moving it further away from its deadline for obtaining its Initial Operational Clearance (IOC).“We are very concerned as we are not seeing significant progress on the IJT. HAL put a dedicated design team, yet there are no results. This is a training aircraft and we cannot compromise on safety,” said Browne.
Issues remain on controls, engines, weight of aircraft, stall and spin characterstics, Browne said. This was confirmed to us by T. Suvarana Raju Director, Design & Development at HAL who said: “We have had a setback…four aircraft are in flight mode. We will recover the lost time.”
Brave words, but the air force is no longer leaving things to chance and has stationed its own personnel at HAL to monitor the development. A consultancy with BAE Systems is also in the process of being signed, says Browne.
IAF has a requirement of 181 basic trainer aircrafts, 85 IJTs and 106 AJTs.

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