Indian Air Force Running Out of Trainer Jets
About 24 months from now, the Indian Air Force (IAF) may face an embarrassing situation of not having enough trainer aircraft to train its new recruits with. "We are keeping our fingers crossed and hope that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will deliver this time," a senior IAF official told NDTV.
Every IAF pilot - fighter, transport and helicopter - is gradually introduced into flying, starting with the basic trainer called the Hindustan Piston Trainer - 32 (HPT-32). The HPT-32, however, was grounded in 2009 after a series of crashes.
Cadets are now made to fly Kiran Mk-1 jet trainer that were earlier being used for stage two of the training - from the very beginning. But the Kiran aircraft will complete its lifespan by 2015 and will have to be decommissioned. The Intermediate Jet Trainers (IJT) being built by HAL is slated to replace the Kirans. However, because of delays due to nagging problems with the IJT, there is still a big question mark over whether it will roll out by 2015 at all. "It isn't a panic situation yet, but in another six to eight months, if the IJT programme doesn't come to speed, we will have to hit the panic button" a senior IAF officer said.
As of now to stretch the available lifespan of the Kiran aircraft, the minimum flying hours that a cadet is required to fly in Stage-I has been cut down by about 40 per cent - from the otherwise mandatory 65 hours to 25 hours only. "The training schedule of cadets has been rescheduled so that we don't exhaust available life span of the Kirans too quickly," an IAF official told NDTV.
Recently India decided to acquire a fleet of 75 Swiss Pilatus PC-7 MK II turboprop aircraft at a cost of about USD $ 520 million to replace the HPT -32 aircraft. The IAF is likely get the first Pilatus aircraft by the end of 2012. The availability of the Pilatus, however, doesn't solve the problem of not having Intermediate Jet Trainers which is crucial before pilots are moved on to the Advanced Jet Trainers.
Sources tell NDTV, that if the IJT trainers do not materialise before 2015, IAF will be left with two options. The first would be to further cut down flying hours of cadets to preserve and extend the life of the Kiran jet aircraft or send IAF cadets abroad for training. "For the IAF, either of the two situations is not acceptable," a senior IAF officer told NDTV.
Source: NEW DELHI, 27 June 2012 - Press agency News
Photo: The Indian Air Force Hindustan Piston Trainer HPT-32