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IAF may use basic jet to train pilots
Shubhadeep Choudhury/TNS

Bangalore, April 16
From using jets in place of propeller-driven aircraft for training the beginners, IAF may do a role reversal and use a basic trainer aircraft for intermediate jet training of fighter pilots.

The Swiss Pilatus PC-7, the turboprop aircraft chosen by the IAF for replacing the grounded HPT-32 Deepak as a basic trainer, is yet to get clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), but IAF is hoping that the deal will be cleared by the CCS sooner rather than later.

A senior official at the IAF’s Training Command here told TNS that the Swiss aircraft, a basic trainer, would double up for stage 2 training of fighter pilots before they graduated to the advanced jet trainer (AJT) Hawk. However, if the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is able to deliver the intermediate jet trainer (IJT) ‘Sitara’ to the IAF in time, it will not be necessary to use the Pilatus for intermediate jet training of fighter pilots.

The IJT was supposed to get initial operation clearance by July 2011. But HAL failed to keep the deadline. An IJT prototype also crashed near Bangalore last year, resulting in further confusion about the probable date of induction of the IJT in the IAF trainer fleet. “Pilatus PC-7 may not be a jet but it has features which will help prepare the pilots for flying a fighter jet. Of course, the pilots will train in advanced jet trainer (AJT) Hawk before they are given to flying a full-fledged fighter aircraft,” the official said.

“We have no plans for purchasing intermediate jet trainers from abroad. If IJT is not ready before the Kiran aircraft are phased out of service, we will use the Pilatus to fill up the void left by the exit of the Kiran,” the IAF official said.

The plan is a tell-tale sign of the deficiencies of training aircraft being faced by the IAF and its fear that the problem may persist. Recently, IAF officials also told the parliamentary standing committee on defence that they had requirement of 181 basic trainer aircrafts, 85 intermediate jet trainers and 106 advanced jet trainers.

Since the grounding of the propeller-driven HPT-32 in 2009, the Kiran is being used by the IAF as a basic trainer. The two-seater Kiran, also built by the HAL, is a subsonic jet trainer. Kiran jets are used for basic training of all rookie pilots. The fighter pilots do their intermediate jet training also aboard Kiran jets and then graduate to the British Hawk.





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