Trials at Jamnagar to select aircraft from among six international competitors

The quest to procure basic trainer aircraft for new pilots will acquire momentum with the Indian Air Force (IAF) scheduled to begin trials for six competitors at Jamnagar, Gujarat, this month.

The training programme has been hit after the grounding of the HPT-32 Deepak aircraft fleet (Hindustan Piston Trainer) built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) following the July 2009 crash which killed two experienced pilots.

The flight trials are to select an aircraft from among six competitors — GROB 120 TP of Germany, Embraer EMB 312 ‘Super Tucano' of Brazil, Korean Aerospace Industries KT-1, Finmeccanica M-311 of Italy, and Pilatus PC-7 of Switzerland — that responded to the Request for Proposal, sources in the IAF said.

The government had cleared procurement of 75 aircraft off-the-shelf, and of 106 to be built by HAL. The plan is to include simulators and Computer Aided Learning System in the basic trainer.

The trials were initially planned to be held at the Air Force Station at Tambaram, Chennai, but shifted to Jamnagar where the climatic conditions were considered similar. The IAF has set up teams of test pilots and flight test engineers to evaluate the planes.

The teams will observe aspects such as flight characteristics, handling qualities, fuel consumption, duration of sorties, ease of handling and operations, and available instrumentation.

The manufacturer will have to deliver the first 12 aircraft within 24 months of the contract. The remaining trainers will follow in batches. The 75 trainers are part of the government's go-ahead to the IAF for the acquisition of 181 basic trainers.

The induction of Advanced Jet Trainer-Hawk 132 aircraft and Intermediate Jet Trainer is also part of modernisation of training in flying.

During July this year, the government signed a contract with British Aerospace Hawk for 40 additional Hawk planes, whose delivery is expected to begin in 2013. The original contract for 66 Hawks was signed in 2004, and 24 of these planes were completed in December 2009. Of the remaining 42 to be built by HAL, 10 have been delivered, and the entire batch is expected to be completed by 2012.

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