HAL’s indigenous trainer aircraft poised for first flight on Tuesday - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 30 May 2016

HAL’s indigenous trainer aircraft poised for first flight on Tuesday

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 31st May 16

On Tuesday morning, in a milestone in indigenous aircraft development, India’s homegrown basic trainer aircraft, the Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40 (HTT-40) could make its first flight.

Last week, the HTT-40 completed high-speed taxi trials, in which it accelerated to take off speed, and even lifted its nose slightly off the runway, checking all its systems for actual flight. Next, the pilots will go through a full take off and carry out basic flying manoeuvres before landing the aircraft.

If this goes off well, it will be a victory for public sector undertaking, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which has strongly backed the HTT-40 project, defying a sceptical Indian Air Force (IAF).

The IAF had blocked funding for the HTT-40, telling the defence ministry the aircraft would be too expensive, too heavy and would not meet the air force’s needs. HAL continued anyway, allocating more than Rs 350 crore of company funds.

The IAF was backing a Swiss trainer, the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II, importing 75 for Swiss Francs 557 million (Rs 3,770 crore at current rates), in a controversial deal signed in May 2012. Those aircraft have already joined the IAF fleet.

But the IAF needs another 106 basic trainers, and wanted the Swiss aircraft, not the Indian one. In July 2013, then IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne wrote personally to then defence minister, AK Antony, requesting the HTT-40 project be closed and 106 more aircraft be imported from Switzerland. As Business Standard extensively reported, Browne’s letter to Antony was based on incorrect figures and procedures were violated to favour Pilatus (July 29, 2013, “Air Force at war with Hindustan Aeronautics; wants to import, not build, a trainer”, July 29, 2013, “Air Force diluted at least twelve benchmarks to allow Pilatus into contract” and July 31, 2013 “Admissions, obfuscations in Indian Air Force explanation on Business Standard reports”).

That was validated last year, when Business Standard reported a defence ministry internal noting that concluded Pilatus might not have been the lowest bidder (February 14, 2015, “Defence Ministry official questions whether Pilatus was cheapest trainer”).

Since 2015, indigenization-friendly Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has goaded the IAF into accepting the HTT-40 and setting up an “integrated project management team” to oversee the project. To meet the IAF’s training needs while the HTT-40 is flight tested and brought into production --- which could take two years --- 38 more PC-7 Mark II trainers are being bought. The remaining gap of 68 trainers would be filled by the HTT-40.

HAL projects it will build the first two HTT-40 trainers in 2018, eight in 2019, and reach its capacity of 20 per year from 2020 onwards.

HAL hopes to build 200 HTT-40s, exporting a “weaponised” version to countries like Afghanistan, Myanmar, and some African customers. HAL chief, T Suvarna Raju told Business Standard the HTT-40 would be developed into a capable ground attack aircraft, ideal for countries that cannot afford expensive fighters or air bases with long runways. HAL hopes to price the HTT-40 at about Rs 40 crore per aircraft, one-fifth the cost of a basic light fighter.

Stringent Swiss end-user restrictions prohibit weaponising the PC-7 Mark II.

The HTT-40, like the PC-7 Mark II, is a propeller-driven, turbo-prop aircraft for “Stage-1” training of rookie pilots. After 80 hours of basic training, pilots shift to “Stage-2” training on the HAL-built Kiran Mark II jet trainer. Next comes “Stage-3” training on the Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT), which HAL builds under licence from BAE Systems.

The HTT-40 features a pressurised cockpit, “zero-zero” ejection seats, and a state-of-the-art cockpit display with “in-flight simulation” that permits an instructor in the rear cockpit to electronically simulate various system failures, training the rookie pilot in the front seat in handling emergencies.

HAL says that 55 of the trainer’s 95 systems have been designed and built in India. Another 35 systems will be built in India with transferred technology, including the aircraft’s Honeywell TPE-331-12B engine. This high degree of indigenisation would make it easy to support the HTT-40 through its service life. 


  1. God speed for this program!

  2. The HPT-32 was a clear disaster. IAF was begging for BTA. This fact is forgotten in the blog !
    Whatever people may IAF has BTA , they are flying well.
    HAL has a record of very uncertain delivery schedules. So no one will back them up, as it us our replacement cycles are stretched.
    Look at chetaks & cheetahs still flying when the replacement should have started a few years back.
    The decision by current raksha Mantri to have both is wise.
    Give credit to IAF where they deserve, they have flown what is made well Dhruv.
    Even now HAL will take 3 years to complete testing & induct this plane. Where does IAF train its pilots till then china or pakistan ?
    Congratulations to HAL ! Hope the tests go well

  3. Colnel Sahib,
    NSR reports that it already flew and it is beautiful in flight...

    Learn from HF-24 Marut debacle...

    Whatever happens, keep building BTA, IJT, and AJT until India perfects them and creates indigenous aerospace and defense infrastructure...

    Otherwise, India will be at the mercy of other countries/companies mercy...

    If one is aware of Rafale episode, then nothing comes for free...

  4. Chor NAK Browne needs to be dragged back to India from Norway to face trials in Pilatus scam. We need to scrap the new Pilatus order immediately and order 106 HTT40. How safe is the nation if the very people who lead and protect this country turn out to be thieves?

  5. HAL is leaving behind bloggers in making progress on their projects. Good to see :)

  6. Another feather in the cap of Raksha Mantri. This product must be commercialised on priority and sold around the world. This has good export potential. It is hilarious to see your "I told you so..." attitude Mr Shukla. You were trying your best to run down the indigenous product. There have been several honest patriotic comments at that time highlighting the lacunae in the IAF. Now it looks like another Air Chief will bite the dust soon.

  7. From 2020 onward the existing PC-7 Mk II should be sold off so that the inventory is uniform in the IAF. The PC7s have done their job, by that time many of the aircraft might have flown about 50% of their flying hours as well. Maintenance of these aircraft costs a bomb obviously. It makes sense to sell them off to ever willing purchasers who are available all over the world.

  8. There should be a petition to bring NAK back... thankfully the current IAF chief favours Indian planes..at least more than his predecessors

  9. NSR says ---

    What a mess politicians and Babu's, and most importantly IAF has created for India and itself...

    A crash of one Rafale plane will send $300 millions down the sink hole..

    Even in USA, there were two pane crashes just this week...

    I think IAF has a lot to learn from Indian Navy...

    IAF first need to make sure that they get SU-30MKI TOT so that they too do not start falling from skies...pay for TOT, start joint design/development, manufacturing projects ...

    It must be manufactured completely in India up to Super Sukhoi level with SU-35S avionics and possibly engine...

    Cancel Rafale and get F/A-18 because it will help LCA-IA, II, and AMCA as it utilizes same GE F-414 engine...The AESA radar tops in the world...
    It is a battle proven fighter/bomber and India does not need anything better than it...

    Looks like everyone looking for a bribe instead of security for India...

  10. @anon 13:47

    Scrap PC7 dragged back NAK Browne? where is the proof?

    order 106 HTT40???? Why cause it had it first flight??? Please i will only appreciate it when it gets its FOC , which is when????

    HAL track record is horrible eg the IJT36 - First flew in 2009!!!! after delays suppose to get FOC in Sept 2015!!!... Which year are we in now???

    In all this Delays !!! PLEASE tell me what is the IAF suppose to do???

  11. Great work by HAL. Hope to hear news about indigenizing the engine from HAL.

    "Aero Engine Research & Design Centre (AERDC), HAL, Bengaluru had taken up the Design and Development of a 25 kN thrust class turbofan engine for basic military trainer aircraft "

    And the Pilatus should be sold off to other countries and the HTT-40 should be the sole standard trainer aircraft for Stage 1. With the Tejas Trainer for Stage 2, the Hawk can also be replaced. There is no need for videshi aircraft.


  12. @G

    Don't you read or watch news? WHy did Pilatus pay Sanjay Bhandari 1 million francs bribes even before the Pilatus deal was signed? This money went into furnishing and purchase of Robert Vadra's benami flat in London. That's why NAK Browne moved heaven and earth to dilute the specs of Pilatus and did everything in his capacity to keep away HTT40. If this is the quality of ACMs, then I won't be surprised even if we lose a war against Bangladesh or Nepal.

    HAL's Deepak has been flying since the 70s. And you think it can't successfully make an advanced Deepak in the form of HTT40?? If you have such a chor imported air force, no indigenous product will ever get any FOC as is the case with Tejas.

    Why do you even need IJT when we have Kiran since 1960s?? Why can't an improved and modernized Kiran fulfill the job of both IJT and AJT? Why did we purchase 100s of 1970s Hawks? This is another scam which needs investigation.

    Imported Air Force is root cause behind these delays so that their AMs and ACMs can continue to import arms and earn their multi million $ kickbacks along with chor babus and netas.


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