India to Ink Swiss Basic Trainer Aircraft Deal and French Missile Deal for Mirage Fighters Shortly
|The Indian Finance Ministry has cleared two crucial defence deals including the acquisition of 75 Swiss turbo-prop aircraft Pilatus PC-7 to train IAF pilots and the 450 advanced French missiles to arm upgraded Mirage-2000 multi-role fighters. The IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne said that the proposals have been sent to Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and the contracts maybe inked within a week.|
IAF has been in a quandary since 2009 after the grounding of its basic trainer, the piston-engine HPT-32 jets, after a series of mishaps. IAF will be acquiring 75 Pilatus PC-7 basic aircraft for a price of $ 575 million and the basic training of rookie IAF pilots will begin by 2013. The Pilatus PC-7 Turbo trainer aircraft made by the Swiss firm Pilatus Aircraft Limited is a low-wing tandem-seat training aircraft and it is capable of all basic training functions including aerobatics, tactical and night flying. The Pilatus-PC-7 has the distinction of being selected by more than twenty nations as the trainer aircraft and has a reputation for high standard of equipment, performance and cost-effectiveness in this class of training aircraft. It must be noted that an entire batch of IAF trainee pilots graduated without the basic 24-week training on the HPT-32 Deepak piston engine aircraft. Instead, the pilots are proceeding to Stage-2 training on Hawk advanced jet trainers and HJT-16 Kiran trainers. The absence of training on the basic trainer aircraft is likely to undermine the capability of the IAF pilots to fly modern jets.
While the basic trainer aircraft deal for the Swiss aircraft Pilatus PC-7 will be signed shortly, IAF is already inducting 123 British Hawk AJTs (advanced jet trainers) at a cost of around $ 3.5 billion. However, these hawk AJTs are for advanced combat training. The AJTs aim to increase the IAF’s fast jet training capacity. The Hawk AJTs for the IAF will fill the gap between its HJT-16 Kirans and MiG-21 supersonic fighters and to train IAF pilots.
On the other hand, another 106 basic trainer aircrafts, named the HTT-40 (Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40), will be designed and manufactured by state-owned defence undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The deal is estimated to cost $1 billion. HAL’s basic trainer HTT-40 will reportedly take them another 5 years at least to get it operational. Hence, IAF is eager to get new trainers and train its pilots at the earliest making the aircraft import imperative.
The other major defence deal which is expected to be signed after the CCS nod pertains to the 450 fire-and-forget all-weather MICA (interception and aerial combat missiles) systems with French company MBDA. This a part of the $ 2.43 billion programme finalized in July for an upgrade of 51 Mirage-2000s with the help of French companies Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer and Thales, the weapons systems integrator. The first two fighters are being sent to France next month for the upgrade and the remaining 49 will later be upgraded with new avionics, radars, mission computers, glass cockpits, helmet-mounted displays, electronic warfare suites, weapon delivery and precision-targeting systems by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in India. The overall upgrade project cost will go beyond $ 3.3 billion.