Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) to green light HTT-40 indigenous trainer today - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 28 October 2015

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) to green light HTT-40 indigenous trainer today

After stalling HAL’s trainer (above, under fabrication) for years, the Indian Air Force comes around

By Ajai Shukla
HAL, Bengaluru
Business Standard, 29th Oct 15

On Thursday, the defence ministry’s apex Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) will discuss a project the Indian Air Force (IAF) has tried for years to kill. However, the Hindustan Turbo Trainer - 40 (HTT-40) basic trainer aircraft has not just survived but will take to the skies shortly.

The HTT-40 project is alive because, even as the IAF insisted on a Swiss trainer --- the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II --- and on shutting the HTT-40 project to buy more Pilatus trainers; Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) proceeded with the Indian alternative.

In an unprecedented show of confidence, HAL allocated Rs 350 crore of internal funding for the HTT-40, after the IAF stonewalled HAL’s “detailed project report” (DPR), which asked for funds.

On Thursday, in a triumph for “Make in India”, HAL will brief the DAC that the HTT-40 is on track to fly before the financial year-end. Another two years will go in flight-testing and, by March 2018, the HTT-40 will be ready for serial production.

Despite IAF’s insistence that the HTT-40 cannot be built, three successive defence ministers --- AK Antony, Arun Jaitley and now Manohar Parrikar --- have steadfastly backed HAL. Now, their faith is being vindicated.

“The IAF is working closely with us and is now willing to fund the project. But we have decided to first fly the aircraft and then move the file for funding. This is HAL’s vote of confidence in the project,” said HAL chairman, T Suvarna Raju.

IAF head, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, addressing the media ahead of Air Force Day last month, publicly accepted the HTT-40. “As we get the HTT-40, indigenously built by HAL as a basic trainer, I think we will be well on our way in making up the deficiencies in our pilot training”, said Raha.

The IAF trains its fighter pilots in three phases. Stage-1 training of rookies, done on propeller-driven basic trainers will be on the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II and the HTT-40, when it joins the fleet. Next, pilots will graduate to Stage-2 training on the Sitara intermediate jet trainer (IJT), which is completing development. Then pilots do Stage-3 training on the Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT), which HAL builds under licence from BAE Systems.

To bring the IAF around to accepting the HTT-40, the defence ministry cut a deal in the DAC in February. It was agreed the IAF would buy 38 more Pilatus trainers under the “options clause” of the May 24, 2012 contract for 75 PC-7 Mark II aircraft. HAL, in turn, agreed to pare down its HTT-40 order to 70 aircraft from the promised 106. HAL said at least 70 trainers were needed for economical production.

Business Standard visited the HTT-40 design centre in HAL Bengaluru, where the first prototype is being assembled in the fabrication hangar. A Honeywell TPE-331-12B engine, a version of which is already flying with the IAF, navy and coast guard on the Dornier-228 aircraft, will power the HTT-40. The engine has arrived and is waiting to be fitted into the first prototype.

The design team calls the HTT-40 a “nice, simple aircraft”, which is unlikely to create problems in the crucial spin and stall trials. These prove that an aircraft a trainee pilot has stalled, or put into a spin, can bring itself back easily into level flight.

“We will set up our production line in HAL Bengaluru, with a rated output of 20 trainers each year. The first year we will build just two aircraft, eight in the second year and 20 aircraft from year-three onwards”, says the design team head.

Since the IAF has committed to buying just 70 HTT-40s, HAL might run out of orders by 2022. However, the HTT-40 could be built in larger numbers if the IAF rejects the Sitara. In that eventuality, the IAF chief has an alternative plan for Stage-2 training to be done using the expanded flying envelope of the Stage-1 trainers.

“As soon as we get the HTT-40… this aircraft will also be used in Stage-2 training if we find that it meets our requirements. If it doesn’t, the HTT-40 will be used only in Stage-1 training”, said Raha. 


  1. At last some information on the HTT 40. Looked like people had gone to sleep as it was supposed to fly in July. Not a good idea to have 2 aircraft in the inventory for pilot training in the long run. What about exports?? The Pilatus PC 7 has served its job as a good interim trainer. Once the HTT-40 trials are over the PC-7 can be replaced to bring down long term costs.

  2. Will HTT-40 also go the IJT way? I remember in 1999, same kind of enthusiasm that HAL designed and built an IJT in 2-3 yrs with own funding and then it all fizzled out. 15 years on we still don't know whether it still does not stall when it spins.

    IAF now has to modify its training schedule to make it 2 stage. We had to throw 500 million dollars for Hawks for the surya kiran team.

    Lets be cautiously optimistic.

  3. More than trainer, HTT40 can be used more effectively for ISR and counter insurgency operations. Today, militaries across the world are using armed turbo prop planes against low intensity conflicts. Armed HTT40 can be used very effectively in countering terrorism and insurgencies in kashmir, NE and Maoist affected central India. Therefore, in future we may see more orders for HTT40.

    Our nation has been duped into purchasing useless Pilatus due to tantrums of ex ACM Browne. Today we are stuck with this plane as it has been assembled with several components from different vendors across the world. Pilatus has simply walked away without any after sales service leading to our maintenance team chasing several different vendors to keep this plane flying.

    We also cannot arm the Pilatus and use it for combat roles. With HTT40, none of these deficiencies exists as it's "Made in India" and not "Make in India" erroneously mentioned by the author.

    1. Anon @ 15:52 calling Pilatus "useless" goes to show two things clearly:
      1. Your complete ignorance on aviation matters/products and performance parameters.
      2. Your bias against anything not from HAL.

      India does not use air-force for offensive action against its own population.

  4. No other country uses so many different kinds of trainers. There is no need for IJT when we have the Hawk. Rest of the world uses only basic and advanced trainers to train their pilots. IJT, whether indigenous or imported, will be an unnecessary acquisition. This money can be used more effectively elsewhere.

  5. If read in isolation, it comes out that HAL is an extremely hardworking and efficient organisation whose efforts are stymied by the unreasonable IAF. However compare it with the JL-9 which was developed in just two years and it can be understood as to why the IAF doesn't have faith in the claims of HAL.

  6. lol... just wait and watch ... it is common sense not to go for this htt40 ... and this govt is not known to make mistakes like previous govts

  7. HAL appears expert at starting new projects without ever completing ANY project. Ecuador's rejection of Dhruv was not enough and so Boeing cancelled its contract with HAL, citing shoddy workmanship. Obviously none of these will stop HAL from continuing its almost criminal behavior.
    Are we supposed to show joy to this news? HAL is not India and India doesn't want HAL. HAL has killed more IAF pilots than PAF

  8. It seems presstitutes of arms merchants are desperate to malign HAL and indigenous efforts. This Modi govt does not works for India but for Adanis, Tatas and Ambanis. They are wolves in saffron disguise.

    1. Anon 09:34
      Are you saying the reason for Ecuador rejecting any future business with HAL and Boeing cancelling product sourcing from Hal citing shoddy quality was due to media??? Haha

  9. Point 1: What about the HJT-36 of which HAL was supposed to hand over 12 aircraft to IAF in 2012? What is the status of that aircraft which is currently a gap in the IAF training for interim jets? The trainer jet has design issues and cannot recover from spin which has led to a couple of fatal crashes. Today is end 2015 and the snag free HJT-36 is yet to see the light of the day. Why does no-one report on this?

    Point 2: HAL manufactured the HPT-32 for 2 decades and produced nearly 120 aircraft in total BUT COULD NOT RECTIFY a simple snag that cut off fuel supply to the aircraft when it is flying inverted leading to the deaths of 19 IAF pilots. Before making HTT-40, WHY CANNOT HAL rectify the HPT-32 which led to the buying of Pilatus PC-7 Mk 2 aircraft?? Why does no-one report on this?

  10. As of now, IAF has the best mix of training aircraft in the world. Pilatus for stage 1 and Hawks for stage 2&3. After a long time and after loosing so many lives the IAF has done a commendable job in convincing the govt. To get the right combination.... And all supporters of HAL (in its present state)need to visit their hangars to see how they service aircraft.... And you will realise that even a bicycle shouldn't be made or serviced there. I hope that chages soon and we become world class. Being a sarkari organisation, there is no real incentive to do well or nor fear of failure. I'm sure there are excellent people working there, but the output isn't driven by economics, that's why the delays. HAL has the monopoly so there is no requirement to improve!!!
    We need to privatise and have the long term we have to create a Boeing and Lockheed Martin in India so that 20 years from now we can produce world class aircraft, components, engines......there has to be a start. There should be some foresight in commencing production of avionics, aero engines, missiles. In the whole gambit of NDA govt saying make in India, we are just finding Indian partners to assemble in india. No critical technology will come to has to be done the hard way.

    Having HTT now would be a disaster if the govt wants to force IAF to buy it for training. What HAL should concentrate is on being able to make this the replacement aircraft for pilatus 20 years from now and ensuring that HTT 40 that time is the best in the world.

  11. Thank you, defense minister Antony, for supporting indigenous defense.

  12. @Anon 11.19

    Your comment prove two things

    1) Your complete ignorance wrt spec of basic trainer being raised when ordered from HAL and the same specs being watered down when basic trainers are being purchased from videshi Pilatus. With Mir Jafar top brass, netas and people like you, its no wonder why we almost always lost wars to foreign invaders due to traitors in our midst.
    2) I'm an Indian and it is my duty to favor "Made in India" over "Make in India".

  13. @Anon 11.20
    Initial variants of Dhruv did have technical issues. And it's natural as it's our first attempt in making something so sophisticated. Boeing is HAL's competitor. Why will they say anything good about their competitor? I hope you are an Indian and not some ABCD desi i.e. AMerican Born Confused Desi who hates his own country and favors anything that is phoren?

  14. @Anon 8.05 why your favorite Pvt cos are not capable of manufacturing toilet soaps, tomato sauce, jam, potato chips, detergents, chocolates, candies etc etc?? If you checkout the shelves of any kirana store, more than 50% of the products are MNC brands. The same Pvt Cos have failed to make decent two wheelers and 4 wheelers. First let them excel in their own space before trying to bite more than they can chew.
    As far as HAL is concerned, its a restricted area and it's very unlikely that you've even been anywhere close to HAL manufacturing facility let alone entering one. I don't know what goes inside HAL, but I do know that they have one of the best HR practices, whereas vast majority of Pvt Companies don't even have proper Performance Appraisal. Recruitment in these Pvt companies are based more on religion, caste and community than on merit.
    Last but not the least, defense is not a consumer market where you need competition but something which has to be executed in the most cost effective manner. And since you are such a supporter of competition why the GOI has closed the consumer market from foreign competition which leads to low investments which in turns leads to high unemployment and poverty the root cause for Aswacch Bharat. Defense manufacturing is another example. WHy foreign investments have to be routed through a Tata, Ambani or an L&T? Isn't this adding another middlemen?How will import component of our over all defense budget come down if we continue to import arms under the "make in India" tag?


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