Faced with a depleting squadron strength, top commanders of the Indian Air Force met in the national capital on Tuesday to discuss new strategies on the maintenance of old platforms, ranging from fighter planes to helicopters.
As pilot training is hindered in the absence of an intermediate jet trainer, the commander's conference also debated issues that will come up once the Kiran intermediate-trainer aircraft retires from the force.
The ageing trainers were to be phased out in 2014, but in the absence of the new IJT from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the IAF may fly the Kirans for another three-to-four years after suitably modifying the training modules.
“Almost 80 per cent of Kiran's life is lost. The aircraft has only about four years left. The government has spent Rs 4,000 crore on the IJT in the last 11 years, but the aircraft is nowhere to be seen,” IAF chief N A K Brown said earlier this month. Even the initial operational clearance of the IJT, planned in December 2013, is now delayed.
Officials from the IAF and Defence Ministry had informed a Parliamentary panel that they did not have a contingency plan in place for intermediate training when the Kiran jet trainers start to retire by the end of 2014. The service signed two contracts with the HAL for the delivery of 12 limited series production IJT aircraft in 2006 and 73 series production IJT aircrafts in 2010. The aircraft had a delivery schedule from 2012 to 2017, which is yet to be revised, even as the HAL missed all the milestones in the IJT programme so far.
With the depletion in the number of aircraft, increasing attention is being paid on maintenance to keep the ageing fleet flight worthy.