Thirteen links that tell the full story of the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 7 January 2018

Thirteen links that tell the full story of the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II

The Times of India reports that the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) proposed follow-on contract for 38 additional Pilatus PC-7 Mark II basic trainers for Rs 1,450 crore has been put on hold due to graft allegations. The IAF’s proposed purchase of 38 Pilatus basic trainers from the Swiss company envisions exercising a 50 per cent options clause in the May 2012 contract for 75 Swiss Pilatus PC-7 basic trainers for Rs 2,896 crore.

Since 2013, I have reported almost single-handedly on the IAF’s motivated campaign to buy the Swiss Pilatus PC-7 Mark II, rather than supporting Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s (HAL’s) project to design and develop an indigenous basic trainer – the Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40 (HTT-40), which is currently at an advanced stage of development.

Whether there was mala fide intent on the part of IAF officials, I leave to your judgment. A close reading of my articles should leave you with little doubt about who the key crooks in this game were. As with so many crooked deals, this one too played out in both Congress and BJP days.

For journalists, criminal investigators and concerned citizens who might like to know more about how this played out, I am placing before you 13 links -- chronologically ordered -- to articles that I wrote on this subject for the Business Standard. All these articles are posted here on Broadsword. Please feel free to use my work as you deem fit.


29th July 2013, Air Force at war with Hindustan Aeronautics; wants to import, not build, a trainer,

30th July 2013, Air Force diluted at least twelve benchmarks for trainer aircraft, allowing Pilatus into the contract,

31st July 2013, Admissions, obfuscations in Indian Air Force explanation on Business Standard reports,

1st Sept 2013, Air Force to discuss with HAL indigenous trainer road map,

14th Oct 2013, IAF to HAL: build Swiss trainer aircraft, don’t develop your own,

26th March 2014, Air force resists Antony’s order for indigenous trainer aircraft,

21st Nov 2014, Pilatus or HAL’s trainer: Parrikar’s first “Make” decision,

30th Nov 2014, Purchase of Pilatus trainer aircraft deferred, future in limbo,

7th Jan 2015, Scuttling a “Made in India” project: the case of the HTT-40 trainer,

14th Feb 2015, Defence ministry official questions whether Pilatus was cheapest trainer,

2nd March 2015, “Make in India” for HAL trainer, import of Swiss trainer capped,

17th June 2016, Boost for “Made in India”, HAL demonstrates new trainer aircraft to Parrikar,

13th Dec 2017, Aerospace industry eyes business worth Rs 12,500 crore,


  1. A basic trainer is a pretty easy thing and a country which cannot design that should not Evan think of ever designing anything high end. The way it was promoted , with no arms package , no service contract and total neglect and complete disregard for domestic HTT - 40 was enough of a reason to be suspicious of wasted interest. A plane as revolutionary as P 51 mustang which was game changer was designed in 102 days , tested , new Merlin engine was installed and canopy changes made quickly tested and put into production. This plane changed the fate of world war 2 . The HTT -40 is going as per schedule , subcontract for smaller components , make composite components and reduce the weight of final product , quickly test it and put in production. Similarly quick built up and test HTT 25 engine and install it on HJT 36 and complete the testing of this plane. Quickly arm them both and give it to Air Force , there would be few who would resist then ask those officers to vacate their position. The AJT assembly line is free use it to start manufacturing LCA MK 1 A on a small scale so the engineers get used to the plane and a full scale MK 1 A line start with 16 plane production per year. The other lines can start producing MK1A as soon as IOC contract is completed. Continue with testing and achieve FOC. The HTFE 25 engine has a modified version HTFE 40 must be quickly completed and fit it on jaguar and complete the upgradation of 6 squadrons . Try to built at least four sqadronsof Tejas by 2020 so that you have 16 squadrons ofMKI , 6 of Jaguars , 6 squadrons of mirages and MiG 29 , two squadrons of Rafale that makes 30 squadrons. Try to build 5 squadrons of latest versions of F 18 which are pretty close to F 35 with sensor integration and new GE 414 EPE which can be manufactured in India as navy would need at least 57 F 18 . This makes 35 squadrons of upgraded planes when Tejas MK 2 comes for production. Start building the prototype of AMCA in 44 months as that is the time we get to built a prototype and quickly test it. PAKFA and J 20 are not fifth generation planes and it would take them at least ten years to improve it. Built at least 60 squadrons so that you should have at least 45 squadrons fully ready to deal with any scenario.

    The worst is if you are importing unarmed basic trainer then things are pathetic and something is seriously wrong and those asking the same must be asked to take and made to retire.


  2. Too many indigenous projects being killed by corruption!! Too much efforts to kill NAG and Tejas as well. Poor DRDO/Hal don't have deep pockets to pay kickbacks neither they got much desired Russian beauties..

  3. NSR says ---

    Not only the BTA but even basic planes are imported...
    Try to google and see...
    Really sad state of things...

    Indian space programme is on a better footing because of the leadership and vision of Honorable President Kalam
    Nuclear programme had leadership and vision of Dr. Homi Bhabha...

    There is no one on defense side...but there are plenty of crooks like Tyagi's...
    He committed the crime while serving and I wonder why he was not courtmartialed and punished swiftly...

    May God bless India and its citizens...

  4. The services are repeatedly getting a bad name for high level corruption as also inefficiency. It is rightly said that they've slid down to the average Indian standard, though they took some time getting there. For the slow rate, we only have to thank the Brits, whose residual influence has now been completely worn off.

  5. I have a contradictory view,
    The hpt 32 was grounded in 2009.

    HAL is close to certifying htt40 now in by end 2018.

    What was the IAF supposed to do??
    Wait for a decade for them to deliver...

    HAL is sarkari company, where merit is not awarded, they are now firing at all cylinders due to the insult meted at them due to iaf purchasing pilatus.

    Even then its more than 4 years and they've built only 3 aircraft. How much more time would that have taken to build 106. Can they deliver in the next 2 years.

    I have been fortunate enough to see the pilatus closely. Its built quality is phenomenal.... Hal will take a century to reach those standards.

    Please call a spade a spade... IAF was correct in every way to buy pilatus.

    If our govt. And govt PSUs don't care about the lives of our young least the air force should!!!

  6. Mr Shukla,

    Why not a single article on HJT-36 Sitara-which is a decade over due and there is no news on it since the crash in 2011 but at the same time 12 articles on HTT-40? The absence of the HJT-36 is a hole in the training curriculum and is a far bigger issue than stage-1 training where we already have 75 Pilatus aircraft.

    As a journalist-if you are practicing the same double standards which you are up-in-arms against the Air Force, what does this mean?

  7. @Timbaktoo - What to say of basic trainer aircraft, we're also not able to make a basic rifle for the soldier. We'll soon be getting our basic rifle from some 'advanced country' of the world. What a country India is, I say!

  8. The HPT32 killed a lot trainees and trainers. HAL was just not able to rectify the defect. I think IAF didi the smartest thing of buying Pilates. Pilatus is a world leader in trainer aircraft. I think you should stop writing crap.
    While I support indigenous program, HAL supported own IJT. iAF placed orders. It is no where to be seen.
    Thank you stars IAF has pilatus and Hawks. The alternative would be send IAF trainee pilots to neighborhood Pakistan or Chinese airforce !

  9. like tyagi... browne... bank rolling... kids education etc... enjoying swiss alps villa...

  10. Seeing the track record of HAL, the Air Force cannot really be blamed for making such a decision. Few people are aware that the LCA is not the first indigenous fighter that the HAL has developed. In the mid-50s the legendary WW2 German aircraft designer Kurt Tank and his team joined HAL on the invitation of the Indian Government to design and develop India’s first indigenous fighter bomber the HF-24 Marut. A combination of poor production capability and lack of a suitable engine ensured that the resultant aircraft was a failure as it could not meet most of the requirements and was quietly retired from the IAF in 1990. HAL does not appear to have learnt from its mistakes.

    India has the dubious distinction of being currently the largest arms importer (approx. 18 Billion USD) in the world beating both our hostile neighbours China and Pakistan by a long margin. Given the current lack of jobs in the country and the worsening global economic situation it is high time that more than just lip service is paid to “Make in India”.

    There are a number of sectors that consume a significant portion of the Defence Budget and are in direct conflict with private defence industry that the government is trying to encourage. These are the DRDO, DPSUs and Ordnance Factories. The “raison d'être” of each of these including HAL needs to be reviewed pragmatically in the light of “Make in India”.

    To give an example, the US DARPA and the DRDO have annual budgets in the same scale of 2-3 billion USD. But while the DRDO has an estimated strength of 35,000 and about 70 establishments across the country the DARPA has about 240 employees and operates out of mainly one building. The DARPA funds and runs its projects through academic institutions and private industry. The model has been highly successful giving the world the Internet and GPS in addition to most of the high tech weapon systems the US armed forces use.

    The Army and Air Force also need to have a new approach to managing their projects in a time bound and practical manner. The basic contradiction of many defence procurements is that the requirements are too ambitious to start with and delays in the procurement cycle so long that only a PSU (with assured salaries paid from the Defence Budget) can survive them. Of the three services, only the Navy appears to have been reasonably successful in managing to indigenise most facets of ship production and the timely procurement weapon systems.


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