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IAF releases RFI for 106 PC-7 MK II Basic Trainers to be procured under the ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’ category

Atul Chandra

The Indian Air Force (IAF) released a Request for Information (RFI) for the procurement of an additional 106 Swiss made Pilatus PC-7 MK II Basic Trainer Aircraft (BTA) in March. The additional 106 trainers are to be ‘supplied in the same configuration/specifications and scale as was contracted with M/s Pilatus Aircraft Ltd earlier’ says the RFI.

IAF

The decision has been taken as the IAF had expressed reservations over acquiring the HTT-40 developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and recast its proposal from ‘Make’ category to ‘Buy and Make’ category to procure the balance 106 BTAs.

The ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’ decision means purchase from an Indian vendor (including an Indian company forming joint venture/establishing production arrangement with Original Equipment Manufacturer), followed by licensed production in the country. The IAF will acquire “a certain number of PC-7 Mk II aircraft in flyaway condition along with requisite associated equipment as the ‘Buy’ portion followed by licensed production/indigenous manufacture in India under the ‘Make’ portion.”, according to the RFI.

The trainers are ‘required to be inducted urgently into the IAF’ and hence, induction of aircraft and equipment is to begin by 2015-2016, with all deliveries to be completed by 2020-2021 (approximately 21 trainers a year, over five years). The IAF has been very pleased with the performance of its existing fleet of PC-7 MK IIs, with sustainability of the aircraft on the flight line and maintainability being termed as ‘very good’.

Air Marshal Paramjit Singh Gill AVSM VM, who heads the IAF Training Command, told FORCE in an interview late last year that, “the response that we have been getting from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is excellent, it is after all a new machine and there would be teething problems. However, when anything goes wrong, they act in quick order and have been professionally sound in accepting responsibility, in case there is an issue from their side. As a result we have been able to maintain a very high availability rate on the aircraft and this is very encouraging.”

The decision to go-ahead with additional PC-7 MK II trainers was taken in spite of HAL completing a significant amount of work on their indigenous BTA, the Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40 (HTT-40). HAL has already sanctioned Rs 177 crore (USD 30 Million) for preliminary design phase and detailed design phase activities on the HTT-40. FORCE has been given to understand that design and development work on HTT-40 will be completed next year. The delivery of the first HTT-40 is slated for 2017. The engine has already been finalised and British ejection seat specialist Martin Baker has been chosen to provide the ejection seats for HTT-40.

10,000 Flight Hours
The IAF’s Pilatus PC-7 Mk II fleet has crossed 10,000 flight hours and accumulated more than 20,000 safe landings. This is a significant achievement as the first batch of Flight Cadets began training on the PC-7 MK II from July last year, at Air Force Academy, Dundigal. The IAF has also received its first simulator for the PC-7 Mk II, which has been operational since February this year and the second simulator is due to be delivered by the end of the year.

Deliveries are currently underway under an ‘accelerated induction plan’ that has seen Pilatus deliver 33 trainers to the IAF, less than two years after contract signature. On an average, the IAF is taking delivery of two aircraft every month with the aircraft being flown down from Stans in Switzerland, over multiple hops. All 75 aircraft ordered by the IAF will be delivered by August next year.

The IAF decision to release an RFI for 106 additional PC-7 MK II trainers means that HAL has its work cut out on the HTT-40

Delivery schedule of Aircraft 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 Total
Number of HTT-40’s delivered 2 8 11 15 15 15 20 20 106

Source: HAL RFP for HTT-40 Engine