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HAL failed to deliver 18-yr-old project, MoD tells MPs

Indian Air Force has to live with shortage of more than 100 trainer aircraft in the “foreseeable future”.

The defence ministry would foreclose HAL's Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer programme after waiting for 18 years for the Defence PSU to deliver the aircraft.

While IAF has a sanctioned strength of 432 trainer aircraft of various categories, the force currently has only 310 aircraft to train the rookie pilots on the art of flying.

There is a huge shortfall in the category of basic trainer aircraft and intermediate jet trainer.

Out of 183 sanctioned basic trainer, IAF currently has only 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II aircraft while the defence ministry has proposed to buy another 38 from the Swiss firm.

Another 70 basic trainers were to come from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited that was developing an indigenous basic trainer named HTT-40.

The projected date of completion was between February 2013 and May 2016, but the first flight of HTT-40 happened three years after the time-line— on May 31, 2016.

Presently, there are two prototypes undergoing flight testing.

Taken together, they completed 125 flights. Though its certification was planned in December 2018, it didn't happen as the spin testing began only in November 2018.

The story of the Sitara IJT is even more worrying.

The design and development for the IJT aircraft was sanctioned by central government in 1999. HAL signed a contract with the IAF to supply 12 Limited Series Production (LSP) aircraft by 2005 and 73 Series Production (SP) aircraft in 2010.

"However, design and development is yet to be completed due to HAL’s inability to resolve the critical design issues related to Spin/ Stall characteristics of IJT. A case is being taken up for foreclosure of the programme," defence ministry informed a panel of Parliamentarians, headed by BJP leader Kalraj Mishra.

On the long-delayed IJT project, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence felt that in view of the inordinate delay, there didn't appear to be any prospects of its development and delivery in the next couple of years.

The lawmakers wanted the defence ministry to fix the responsibility on the failed Sitara project as it led to IAF change its training programme and may incur more expenditure in the future.

The Committee apprehended that IAF had to depend on imports or put up with its existing aircraft for training purposes.

The force was already doing as it continues with the Kiran aircraft for intermediate training even though the aircraft's service life expired a few years ago.

Further, due to inordinate delay on the part of HAL, which could not even finalize design and development of the Intermediate Jet Trainer after 18 years of the sanctioning of the project, the cost might have escalated manifold, the panel said in its report submitted in the Parliament on Monday.

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