IAF laments HAL delays in delivery of intermediate trainer - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 4 February 2013

IAF laments HAL delays in delivery of intermediate trainer

Hindustan Aeronautics' Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) that has been in development since 1999

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 5th Feb 13

The Indian Air Force (IAF) continues to grapple with difficulties in training its pilots. While quality basic training will become possible as the Pilatus Aircraft Company delivers the 75 PC-7 Mark II basic trainers that India bought last year for Rs 2,900 crore, the next stage of training remains an issue. IAF officials say the failure of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to develop an Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) is now a serious hurdle to training.

HAL has been developing an IJT, called the Sitara, since 1999. The IAF has forked out R&D costs of Rs 600 crore (up from an initial estimate of Rs 180 crore), and assured HAL of an order of 12 prototypes and 73 operational trainers. But, with the IJT delayed by almost a decade and still at least three years from delivery, rookie pilots will continue to train on outdated and inadequate aircraft.

The IAF trains its fighter pilots in three phases. Stage-1 training will now be carried out on the propeller-driven Pilatus PC-7 Mark II. From there, pilots graduate to Stage-2 training on jet aircraft, which is currently carried out on the vintage Kiran Mark I since the IJT Sitara, which was supposed to replace the Kiran long ago, has not been delivered. Finally, pilots carry out Stage-3 training on the vaunted Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT), which was acquired in the mid-2000s.

“The IJT has been a very poorly planned programme by HAL and a decade-long delay is unacceptable in a trainer aircraft. Given how much time and money the IAF has already committed, we have to stick with the IJT programme and induct it into service as a Stage-2 trainer,” a top IAF official bitterly complained.

But patience is running out in Vayu Bhawan, the IAF headquarters. A senior air marshal told Business Standard that, if the IJT was not delivered within three years, the IAF would consider using the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II as a Stage-2 trainer, in addition to its primary job as a Stage-1 trainer.

“The Pilatus could also be used for Stage-2 training until the IJT is ready. This could be done using the same aircraft, by putting the trainee pilots through more complex flying exercises,” explains the IAF official.

The IAF brass believes that HAL made a major blunder in deciding to change the IJT’s engine, replacing the French Larzac engine around which the Sitara was designed, with a more powerful AL-55I engine built by Russian engine-maker, NPO-Saturn. In 2005, HAL signed a $350 million contract with Russian defence export agency, Rosoboronexport, to build 250 AL-55I engines under license in Bangalore, with an option for 1000 more. After developing the engine, Moscow insisted on payment of another $64 million.

“HAL should never have gone in for a new engine mid-way, because an aircraft is always designed around its engine. Instead, they should have upgraded the Larzac,” points out a top IAF planner.

Contacted for comments, HAL has not responded. According to engineers involved in the IJT’s development, the testing regime that governs the new Russian engine has delayed the flight-testing of the IJT. This was predictable, since any new engine requires extensive and progressive testing. In this, the Russian certification agency allows the engine to fly only a fixed number of hours, after which the agency examines the engine and then clears it to fly a small number of additional hours. This progressive certification often holds up flight-testing.

Business Standard has followed the IJT Sitara’s development since the early 2000s, on regular visits to HAL. Design began in 1999, and the aircraft flew in 2003, a remarkably quick development process. But then, the engine was changed and problems began. Last year, an IJT prototype crashed, fortunately without loss of life.

HAL has said that it intends to build the IJT in its Kanpur facility, at a cost of about Rs 50 crore per aircraft.


  1. any word... why... it crashed... ???...

  2. If an pilot training academy is found wanting in equipment and trainers and have a casualty rate due to lack of these, then the company can face a murder charge due to negligence. To avoid loss of life, training academies all over the world have to go thru stringent quality tests in terms of training and equipment.

    The reason for IAF pilots and rookie pilots loosing their life is that the I.A.F is found wanting in training in terms of equipment.The irony is that it is not the IAF's fault and in fact the I.AF has been taking steps to correct the faultine due to H.A.L, N.A.L , DRDO.
    It does not need to do so, because once it tries to correct the attrition rate due to faulty equipment, it is taking the onus of murdering young rookie pilots.

    It is high time that the IAF tells the political and bureaucratic class that it no longer wants to be responsible for training young people who could be assets to the country on outdated, ill performing equipment as it gets them murdered thru negligence of not having proper equipment. The I.A.F also should make it clear that due to faulty equipment due to faulty planning ,not many are interested to waste their lives dying because the Chiefs do not have the balls to stop the political and bureaucratic class from plundering the armed forces.

    2) Indians as tax payers have a right to country's security. If the political class starting from the President and the P.M cannot buy proper equipment to defund us, they have no right to collect our money. Also this amounts to cheating as taxes our collected by telling us they are procuring arms whilst not even a basic trainer is available after collecting the money for the same and the chief are only aiding in this type of cheating.IF the IAF has allocated 600 crores to HAL without any fruitful end result, they have thrown away our money. A separate fund for R n D should be made out. The survival of HAL/NAL DRDO should be based on its end results and not on usurping our money reserved for upgrading our security.

    As of now HAL/NAL/DRDO absolve themselves of any criminal negligence as they will put the ONUS on the IAF for not having the right equipment yet asking people to come to them,the MOD will state they are not military people and thus cannot be held responsible and the political class will off shoulder the responsibility easily.

    The Air Marshals have successfully achieved 4 things in their years of not providing the basic right of a trainee

    1) Make the IAF responsible for the deaths of rookie pilots due to its own negligence of not having the right equipment. No govt, babu can force the chief to agree.

    2) Give a bad name to the IAF as under its aegis young lives have been lost, just because they could not stand up to the deficient policy of the babu

    3) Give fighter aircrafts used as trainers a bad name as the rookies are not supposed t train on them

    4) Further aid in attrition and loss of money as fighters that are not trainers are lost due to rookie pilots being forced to fly in them

    Every one understands the bureaucratically and political pressures on the chiefs, yet it is high time that the chief's realize that they are not postmen, who would chanellise the unforgivable un military, detrimental dictat of non military personnel like the political and babu class thru the armed forces, but to chanelise and counsel the political and bureacratical class towards the decission of the armed forces.

  3. @Ajai sir

    its time to bury IJT 36 despite the cost incurred as the project is going nowhere.

    I think instead of wasting time on IJT, this is what IAF should do

    1. provide stage 1 training on PC7

    2. provide 1st part of stage 2 training on PC7 and the 2nd part on Hawks

    3. provide 1st part of stage 3 training on Hawks and the 2nd part on LIFT (Lead in Fighter Trainer) version of LCA Tejas Mk 1

    Why do i say that, bcoz both PC7 and Hawks are very capable aircraft and

    firstly PC7 can be used for both stage 1 & 2 training

    secondly Hawks can also be used for both stage 2 & 3 training

    Adopting this system of training becomes even more important as I just heard LCA Tejas Mk 1 needs a new radome. Few months before IOC2 ADA needs a new radome ?

    Whatever the issue behind the need for it clearly this means LCA Tejas Mk 1 is simply not battle ready.

    Its better to convert the next 30 LCA Tejas Mk 1 that are supposedly already contracted to their LIFT version, using the existing 8 already built and next 2 LSPs for solo flights training.

    That will help our pilots a lot and hopefully no more lives will be lost in training


    Joydeep Ghosh

  4. It's interesting, I'm sure HAL has it's reasons, it wants to build IJT at a cost of 50 core per IJT and HTT 40 costs 60 core estimated.

    There are other interesting factors on opinion given about the project, not trying to defend or against.
    Do not want to dig at them right now.

    Just hope the project materializes soon and starts serving the Country with IAF.


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