Air force rookie pilots to train on Swiss aircraft - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Wednesday 2 May 2012

Air force rookie pilots to train on Swiss aircraft

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 3rd May 12

The Defence Ministry (MoD) is pressing ahead with the Rs 1,800 crore purchase of seventy-five PC-7 Mark II basic trainer aircraft from Pilatus Aircraft Ltd of Switzerland. For the last one year, the purchase of desperately needed trainers for the Indian Air Force has been stalled by a protest from a rival vendor, Korea Aerospace Industries. KAI alleged that Pilatus’ bid was incomplete and, therefore, did not conform to the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2008 (DPP-2008) that governs this tender.

Now the MoD has ruled Pilatus’ bid valid. Today, in a written reply submitted to the Rajya Sabha, Defence Minister AK Antony stated that, “A representation submitted by M/s Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), one of the bidders, has been found to be devoid of merit.”

As Business Standard reported last month (“Pressure mounts for air force basic trainer aircraft”, 15th Apr 12) the Korean government had strongly backed KAI’s protest against awarding the contract to Pilatus. The South Korean embassy in New Delhi had formally protested; and South Korean defence minister, Kim Kwan-jin, wrote to Antony asking for a “high-level review” of the “allegations on irregularity.”

The decision to go ahead with the purchase is a relief to the IAF, which has resorted to ad hoc --- and heavily criticised --- methods for training its rookie pilots since July 2009, when its basic trainer fleet of HPT-32 Deepak aircraft was grounded following a fatal crash. The obsolete Deepak trainer has already claimed the lives of 19 pilots in 17 crashes.

The parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence, in its report released on Monday, has commented on the “critical deficiency of the trainer aircrafts” (sic), pointing out that the IAF was making do with just 255 trainers out of the 434 that had entered service (including basic, intermediate and advanced trainers). Highlighting the IAF’s accident rate, the Committee noted that, “as per the replies furnished by the Ministry, in the 46 percent of the cases the cause behind accident of aircraft is Human Error (Aircrew)” (sic).

The Committee also noted that training simulators are in short supply, with just 30 of the IAF’s 46 training simulators operational.

In addition to buying 75 Pilatus trainers in fly-away condition from Switzerland, the IAF has asked Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to develop an indigenous trainer aircraft (dubbed the Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40, or HTT-40), and to build 106 of those trainers for the IAF.

But the MoD and HAL have dragged their feet on this indigenous project, says Pushpindar Singh, editor of Vayu aerospace magazine. “Since HAL has made little headway so far, they could end up building 106 PC-7 Mark II trainers under licence from Pilatus, instead of developing an indigenous trainer. That would be an opportunity lost,” says Singh.

Indicating that the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II might soon be available to the IAF, Antony told parliament that the MoD would stick to laid down procurement timelines. The purchase, he said, “is awaiting consideration of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).”

The Pilatus trainer will overcome the key shortfalls of the HPT-32, which did not even have an ejection system; in emergencies, pilots ejected manually. Poor instrumentation and avionics restricted training to good weather. The HPT-32 had no recording equipment, so instructors never knew when trainee pilots, flying solo, had violated flying procedures. The PC-7 Mark II is capable of aerobatics, instrument and night flying and tactical operations. It is a hybrid aircraft, with a PC-9 airframe mated with a smaller, PC-7 engine to lower procurement, flying and maintenance costs. It is in service with several air forces, including South Africa and Malaysia.


  1. A rare and laudable decision by the authorities. Hope they stick also to the Rafale.

  2. How can they let HTT-40 start when they have intentionally killed HTT-35 in past just for goodies that comes with any imported system? First intentionally create dire situation and then ask for immediate measures. God save India!

  3. I fully agree with Rahul.

    In my view, HAL (and Not DRDO) is the single biggest culprit in India being dependent on foreign arms.

    HAL is basically a mass-manufacturer. And it knows that if it's profit margins on DRDO's products like Tejas, ALH will be much lesser than imported goodies like Rafale and Pilatus.

    HAL deliberately killed its own HJT Sitara project (replacing Kiran Mk.2) so that it can accrue greater profits by license manufacturing the imported British Hawk.

    Now IAF's training is in 3 stages :- Basic, intermediate and advanced. Basic was handled with Deepak, intermediate with Kiran Mk.1 and advanced with Kiran Mk.2.

    The Sitara was meant to replace the advanced trainer i.e. Kiran Mk.2 and Not Kiran Mk.1, which was the intermediate trainer. Once the prospects of xerox-copying the Hawk became bright, HAL killed IJT Sitara altogether.

    Talk about canniballism by HAL.

    HAL wantonly killed the HTT-40 project because once again it saw the government wanting to import a basic trainer (this time, the Swiss Pilatus).

    ALLEGATION 3: HAL purposely pushed for the Russian FGFA, despite the DRDO literally begging it to have a look at its MCA design (now termed, AMCA). This is because the FGFA can be xeroxed faster, while the AMCA will probably take some more time. Its Chief even went to the extent of lying to the media to call it a "joint-development" between Russia and India, when it has emerged that its clearly not the case. The so-called FGFA is a fully Russian designed and developed jet, with HAL merely seeking to change some electronic sub-systems, just as it did for the Su-30 MKI. The MKI isn't Indian and similarly, the FGFA won't be either.

    Hence, in the scheme of things, HAL is the biggest culprit of all. Not DRDO. And not even MoD.

    Now we know why India is the biggest arms importer.

  4. It is sad that HAL cannot undertake anything of its own.It is an organisation which does only screwdriver technology.It is pathetic they could not design a basic trainer.The IJT project is going at snail's pace with an engine AL 55 which is totally dependent on Russia's mercy. They should change the engine to Honeywell. They better put up a decent IJT and stop blaming IAF for it. The mirage upgrade is costing 41 million $ a piece which is exorbitant and it a cost of a new LCA and for which HAL and ADA are to be blamed.These mirages would not fly after next few years and it a wasteful investment.I feel HAL is still living on the Mark II and Mark IV psyche where they change the grill and little bit of appearance and call that next model. If the LCA would have come on time we do not need MMRCA and how come the 10 billion bill now becomes 20 plus billion, someone is making huge money and instead of putting blame I feel IAF should take the responsibility as to what they want. I feel it would be good choice to have F=35 in same money and develop Tejas to its full potential with Mark 2 fully ready with IN 20 engine and replace it with F414 IN5S6 engine as when it comes so that everything is in place and fully computerized assembly line is ready so that mass production can begin. Rafale is extremely expensive and did not perform well in Libyan missions and french are known to exploit the situation and demand exorbitant money for everything.Scorpene deal signed with no mention of engine and then charging exorbitantly for it. Who would sell and sign a contract of submarine without engine. Enough is enough it is sheer waste to spend 41 million $ per plane for a upgrade that has a questionable engine that may not fly for evan a year.

  5. Hello Sir,

    Any update on FINSAS rifle?


  6. Ajai ji,

    Times of India (link below) reports the cost of the Pilatus aircraft's at Rs 2,900 crore while your blog and a couple of other reports post Rs 1800 crore.

    Which is the correct figure?

  7. @ Anon 7 May 2012 07:17

    and what may I ask is the price of young lives lost trying to grapple with rusty old, mid-century MIG-21s ?
    Any way you do the math it will be far less expensive than the cost of basic trainers no matter their cost!

  8. I agree with Abhimaan & Rahul's observations that HAL has been a major hurdle in the path towards indigenization. There are a few ways we can approach this problem :
    (i) Put all licensed production work up for competitive bids
    (ii) HAL gets to have have right of first refusal for all indigenous projects
    (iii) Milestone based payments and penalties for missed milestones on all suppliers and vendors through better project governance so that blame can be pinned on perpetrators and they can be penalized accordingly.

  9. Subho, this is not to say that IAF is not guilty.

    IAF is also guilty of being an import freak.

    This is not the first time that it seeks imports, despite the fact that indigenous alternatives exist.

    For the ab-initio trainer, IAF could've gone with the NAL Hansa (similar jets have been used as ab-initio trainers even un RAF and USAF).

    For the IJT, IAF could've used the Sitara with low thrust engine (in place of Kiran Mk.1) and as the AJT, it could've used the Sitara with the higher thrust engine (in place of Kiran Mk.2).

    But it persevered for a quarter century after the Hawk, all the while styming the development of the Sitara.

    Strangely, Times of India and The Indian Express which are otherwise vociferous about "delays" by DRDO, did not even squeak upon IAF's tardy decision making while buying the Hawk.


Recent Posts

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