By Praveen Bose
BAE Systems, the multinational aerospace major, has said it would offer consultancy to sort out some of the issues the Intermediate jet trainer (IJT), that is being manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), is facing.
A few years ago, BAE Systems had informally “exchanged notes” with the IJT’s pilots on its (IJT’s) aerodynamics. This has now led to the BAE now offering to sort some of the issues dogging the IJT. The issues pertaining to aerodynamics and the poor manoeuvrability of the aircraft is said to have been chief worries on the IJT front. “It’s especially with regards to the issues faced by the aircraft during a high angle of attack that’s been a cause for concern,” said Michael Christie, senior vice-president, Hawk India programme and director, Hawk programme, BAE Systems. “The specialist aerodynamic and engineering services consultancy we are providing will assist in the characteristics of the aircraft at high angle of attack.”
The IAF continues to grapple with serious difficulties in training its pilots. While the arrival of the Pilatus Aircraft Company’s 75 PC-7 Mark II basic trainers that India bought last year for Rs 2,900 crore, is expected to sort out issues pertaining to basic training, the next stage of training remains an issue for the IAF. The failure of HAL to develop the Intermediate Jet Trainer has become a major hurdle to training.
The HAL has been working to develop the IJT, or the Sitara, since 1999. The government is known to have forked out about Rs 600 crore (up from an initial estimate of Rs 180 crore) in Reserach and Development (R&D) costs. It had promised an order of 12 prototypes and 73 operational trainers. But, with the IJT delayed by almost a decade and still at least three years from delivery, rookie pilots will have continue to train on an outdated aircraft.
The IAF trains its fighter pilots in three phases. Currently, Stage-1 of the training is on the propeller-driven Pilatus PC-7 Mark II. Pilots then graduate to Stage-2 on the jet aircraft. This is currently done on the vintage Kiran Mark I as the IJT, which was supposed to replace the Kiran long ago, has not been delivered. Finally, Stage-3 is on the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT), which was acquired in the mid-2000s.
On Tuesday, a top IAF official had bitterly complained: “The IJT has been a very poorly planned programme by HAL and a decade-long delay is unacceptable in a trainer aircraft.”