Grob Aircraft targets 181 trainers for the IAF: eyes HAL's share of 106 basic trainers - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Tuesday 15 June 2010

Grob Aircraft targets 181 trainers for the IAF: eyes HAL's share of 106 basic trainers

The Grob-120TP at Berlin, sheltered from the sun in between flying displays

The instrument panel, by Elta. The analog dials help rookie fliers, especially during aerobatics. The digital MFDs allow advanced, mission-specific training.

The Martin-Baker 15B ejection seats that were fitted onto the Grob-120TP without major re-engineering

The Rolls-Royce engine that powers the Grob-120TP

The Grob-120TP posing on a runway for a PR photograph

by Ajai Shukla
Berlin, Germany
Business Standard, 16th June 10

As pilot Klaus Plasa lifts his 70-year-old, grey-green Messerschmitt Me-109 fighter off the runway, clapping breaks out amongst the aficionados of historic aircraft that crowd Berlin’s ILA 2010, the world’s oldest air show. The Me-109, which delights the crowd with its aerobatics, is the legendary Luftwaffe (German Air Force) fighter that memorably clashed with Royal Air Force Spitfires in the skies of England during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Close on Plasa’s heels flies a restored Messerschmitt Me-262, the world’s first jet-engine fighter and unmatched in aerial combat when it entered Luftwaffe service in 1944. Historians believe that, had Hitler not waited two years for the fighter’s design to be absolutely perfect, the Me-262 might have won the air war for the Germans.

While these World War II fighters held crowds spellbound at the ILA 2010, which wound up on Sunday, Indian visitors focused on another small aircraft that could soon fly the skies of India: the Grob-120TP, which has been offered as a basic trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Its German manufacturer, Grob Aircraft, submitted a tender in April along with Embraer of Brazil; Pilatus of Switzerland; Raytheon of the US; Finmeccanica of Italy; and Korea Aerospace Industries for the Indian purchase of 75 trainer aircraft.

While these 75 trainers are being procured, Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will design and manufacture an additional 106 basic trainers, dubbed the Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40 (HTT-40). In building the HTT-40, HAL plans to leverage its experience in designing a more advanced trainer, the Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), which is currently being test flown.

All this stems from a major crisis in the basic training of IAF pilots, caused by the grounding of its entire fleet of notoriously unreliable HPT-32 Deepak trainers. In recent years19 IAF pilots have died in 17 Deepak crashes, mostly caused by the engine shutting down due to fuel supply interruptions. The Deepak, like most other basic trainers worldwide, comes without ejection seats but, so desperate is the need to keep training going, that the IAF has even proposed fitting each Deepak with a Ballistic Recovery System: a giant parachute that can safely bring down a stalled aircraft slowly with the crew still in their seats.

But the search for a new trainer has begun in earnest and Grob’s aggressive two-pronged strategy targets not just the 75 trainers in the tender, but the 106 trainers that HAL proposes to build as well. Grob’s strategy: surprise HAL with the technological excellence of the Grob-120TP; and then --- when HAL realises that it cannot match the Grob trainer --- offer HAL a substantial partnership in Grob’s global supply chain in exchange for letting Grob supply an additional 106 Grob-120TP aircraft.

Given HAL’s technological excellence in manufacturing composites cheaply, Grob is happy to source from HAL. The IAF will be happy with a single basic trainer that is already training Israeli, French, German and Canadian air force pilots, rather than waiting for an untried HAL trainer. And HAL would have eliminated developmental risks, while obtaining an assured customer.

“For HAL to supply 106 aircraft to the Indian Air Force is one thing, but producing fifty, sixty, seventy components for us, for the global market, over a long period of time, is another thing”, says André Hiebeler, Chief Sales Officer and co-CEO of Grob Aircraft. “Depending upon the outcome of the tender for the first 75 aircraft, all the participants will have to go and look at the cards one more time and see what they sense”.

Technologically, Grob is on solid ground; the Grob-120TP is two generations ahead of the Deepak and is the world’s lightest trainer with ejection seats for both pilots. The Grob-120TP’s digital glass cockpit, built by Israeli company, Elta, allows rookie pilots to fly mission-specific sorties that were only possible earlier in advanced trainers. Finally, Grob claims this trainer, built entirely of maintenance-free, lightweight composites, is half the price of its rivals and three times cheaper to fly and maintain. Sources indicate that the Grob-120TP has been offered to India for US $3-4 million apiece.

“We are going to completely surprise everyone when they open the tender bids and see how affordable this aircraft is”, promises Andrew Martin of Martin-Baker, the company that fitted the Grob-120TP with ejection seats. “Every hour in another trainer is probably the cost of 10-15 hours in a Grob… I am sure this will strike a chord with the IAF HQ.

While these claims will be tested by the IAF during user trials in September and October, the second prong of Grob’s strategy will become evident when it submits offsets proposals on 16th July. Besides sourcing composite airframe components from HAL, a JV already created between HAL and Elbit --- called HALBIT Avionics Ltd --- is likely to produce a large part of the Grob-120TP’s avionics.

IAF fighter pilots undergo three stages of training. Basic, or Stage-1 training was done on the Deepak; to replace these trainers, the IAF is buying a new aircraft. Stage-2 training is done on the Kiran Mark 1, which will be replaced by the Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bangalore. Stage-3 training, just before pilots join their frontline fighter squadrons, is done on the Kiran Mark 2, which is being currently superseded by the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT).


  1. "HAL’s technological excellence in manufacturing composites cheaply"

    Err. That capability did not come to HAL out of it's own efforts. It was the hard work and R&D at NAL that gave India it's current superb capability in composites.

    HAL received the technology transferred from NAL.

  2. Whatever one may claim but we can not depend on imported airplane for long time. HTT-40 should come. May be after seeing Grob aircraft and using experience from HJT-36 program, HAL rolls out an aircraft which competes with Grob because of its remarkably cheap acquisition and operating cost.

  3. If their outsourcing of components to HAL includes significant Engine parts, India should take the offer.

  4. @Ajai sir

    by what you say it looks like Grob should be thew front runner.

    Q1 Sometime back I heard of existence of HTT 39 and LIFT Tejas aircrafts. Meanty for training whats so special about these planes.

    Q2 Will it not be good to use these homegrown planes for training pilots instead of buying from foreign suppliers.

    Q3 Do you expect to see Grob fitted with BRS

  5. shuklaji, was just curious, what happened to all those quesstions which u asked for before visiting HAL.
    All we've seen regarding HAL is news which was avalaible to all or the story from outside like the grob trainer one.

    Can you pls bestow on us any pieces of extra information u may have gained from your HAL visit related to the questions asked.


  7. they make good aircraft, plus with the euro in full down turn. It is time for a European shopping spree, defense wise. This presents us a golden opportunity to buy classy hardware, at a good price with high levels of tech transfer and no sovereignty sapping agreements to ink.

  8. Involve indian private sector in designing and building defence equipments....they will create wonders for all of us to be proud off.....PSU`s will render our dream to be self reliant unachievable by 2020.....some one lisening in MOD......

  9. HAL!!! Grab this GROB!!!!MOD please cut the redtape to small size!!! But verify its performance,suitablity for training noobies, maintennace, safety and reliability,supply of spares!!!

  10. Ajai, were you able to get answers from HAL to the questions you had asked your readers here? Shiv Aroor too did the same, and now both of you aren't posting what you learnt from HAL. Did you even ask some/any of the questions that the readers posted.

  11. Hi Ajay,

    You had told visitors to post questions as you were visiting HAL.

    Can you please post an article on that?

  12. IT IS BETTER IF WE BUY ONLY 50 OF THEM directly from the manufacturer , the Grob-120TP and GET OUR INDEGENOUS TRAINER SINCE IT WILL SHARE SOME SIMILAR COMPONENTS OF LCA and IAF has agreed for only forty of them FOR MK1 it is better to use the lca assembly line for future LIKE LCA ADVANCED TRAINER,SITARA,BASIC TRAINER TO ARMORTISE THE COST TO SOME EXTENT.

    today it is cheap but later .... no one knows BUT INDIA HAS ONE BILLION POPULATION, and half of them below poverty line if they go on buying even the small aircrafts like these then god knows what india will become in next few years .......... IF HAL CAN PRODUCE CHEAPER COMPOSITES LEVERAGE THE ADVANTAGE FOR THE INDEGENOUS AIRCRAFT.

    ......BHAI LOG,OUR LCA,KAVERI ENGINE,SITARA etc ......are no match for foreign planes for that CAN WE GO FOR A SUBSTITUTE.


    of course what do we mean by BUILDING SUCH A SOPHISTICATED PLANE LIKE LCA IS OK and TRAINER IS NOT OK ............


    SEEEEE.........OUR ............DHRUV,LCH .......CAN THEY BUILD A GOOD HELI .....


    someone tell me how to join BR and mail me to it is nottaking my yahoo account pleeeese..........

  13. If the Stage-1 trainer has been grounded, then what do the pilots train on??

  14. Our air force needs a new basic trainer TODAY. Delaying the purchase by 6-10 years just for the sake of having 'indigenous' plane would be downright criminal considering how many pilots could have died from accidents by then. Anonymous armchair specialists can shut up: they're not the ones sitting in HPT-32s and endangering their lives.

    In any case developing a basic turboprop trainer is no great leap of technology. We already know HAL can develop one. It doesn't mean it HAS to develop it. Buy one of the existing dozens of trainer models off-the-shelf and let some private sector firm like Mahindra manufacture it under license in the hundreds. Problem solved.

  15. Makes sad reading.
    Even before we could make two wheelers and four wheel road vehicles in 1950,(sixty years ago) HAL had DESIGNED and Fabricated the HT-2 basic trainer which has trained generations of IAF pilots.
    Today we are scouring the world over in search of a basic trainer aircraft.
    Alas the wheel has turned a full circle.

  16. Hi,

    could you please do an article on the status of HAL HJT-39 also Combat Attack Aircraft (CAT). Did anything happen of ADA's Lead-in-Fighter-Trainer (LIFT) based on the LCA?

    Also what is the status of HTT-40?

    I think a lot of us enthusiast would love to know about it and there is hardly any news about the same!

    Thanks in advance.



Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last