IAF gets Pilatus to train cadet pilots

IAF gets Pilatus to train cadet pilots

IAF gets Pilatus to train cadet pilots

Four years after phasing out its old HPT-32 Deepak basic trainer aircraft, the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday finally received a squadron of brand new Pilatus PC-7 basic trainers which will be used to train rookie cadets.

The first squadron of Pilatus PC 7 MK II was inducted into the IAF training academy in Dundigul in Andhra Pradesh by the Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh who later flew in a twin-seater trainer version of the same aircraft.

Three PC-7 MK II aircraft got airborne in a “vic formation” (arrowhead formation) led by Group Captain R S Nandedkar to put up a brief display for the audience.

India has contracted 75 aircraft from Pilatus. The Rs 2,800 crore (500 million Swiss Franc) procurement was approved by the government in May 2012 and the first batch of PC-7 MK II arrived at the academy in February this year.

The first batch of flight cadets would start their training on PC-7 MK II from July. The same platform will be used to train pilots of the Navy and Coast Guard too. The IAF will receive the entire fleet of 75 Pilatus basic trainer aircraft by 2015.

The second squadron of Pilatus will go to IAF Flying Instructor's School in Tambaram.
But even as the IAF and the Defence Ministry are trying to fill up the void in basic flying training programme, they encounter another problem in intermediate flying, which used to be done by HJT-16 Kiran aircraft. After phasing out HPT-32 trainers, Kirans were used for basic flying and the cadets subsequently graduated to Hawk advanced jet trainer.

The ageing Kirans are now slated to retire by 2014 and its replacement – intermediate jet trainer “Sitara” being developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited – is not ready.

The ministry and the IAF recently informed a Parliamentary panel that they did not have a contingency plan in place for intermediate training, raising the possibility of tinkering with pilot training programme instead of ideally going through the basic-intermediate-advanced phases of flight training.

HAL now claims that it will receive the initial operational clearance (IOC) for IJT by December, 2013. But there is no clarity on how long the aviation major would take to get the subsequent final operational clearance as only the second prototype of IJT is now being produced in a limited series production assembly.