Indian Air Force To Lease 20 Basic Trainer Aircraft; Domestic Firms To Be Given Priority — Reports

The Indian Air Force is looking to lease at least 20 basic trainer aircraft through the emergency procurement route approved by the government last year, according to reports. 

Earlier this month, the Air Force sent out a request for information (RFI) to global vendors in view of the shortage of trainer aircraft it is facing currently. The home-grown HTT-40 will be inducted into the service in the coming years.

According to the RFI, while Indian companies would be given priority, global entities have been invited to participate in the competition as well. According to The Economic Times, the RFI also specifies that the air force needs a trainer that can undertake four to six sorties a day for intensive training of pilots.

The leasing company has to maintain the aircraft during the duration of service and provide a simulator for pilots as well. The RFI also adds that the aircraft would be used to impart training to the Air Force personnel for an initial period of three to four years, extendable in batches of two years.

The Indian Air Force currently operates approximately 260 trainer aircraft, which include Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II, Kiran MkI/IA, and Hawk Mk-132 advanced jet trainer, according to the Defense Ministry.

The pilot training is done in successive phases. The trainee, also called the ‘flight cadet’ undergoes initial flight training on a basic trainer aircraft like the Pilatus PC-7 MkII. After the first stage, the cadet is sent on specialization courses on a fighter jet, helicopter, or transport aircraft. Further training is done on intermediate and advanced jet trainers like the HJT-16 ‘Kiran’ and the Hawk Mk-132.

The Indian Air Force is also facing an acute shortage of pilots. The government admitted in Parliament that the service is facing a shortage of 405 pilots. It has 3,834 pilots against the sanctioned strength of 4,239.

The induction of more trainer aircraft is expected to increase the efficiency in pilot training and better operational capabilities for the IAF, while a new selection center will also start operating from next month in Guwahati.

Last year, India struck a deal with the US to lease its General Atomics MQ-9B SeaGuardian, also called Reaper drones.

Following the leasing of the drones, India decided to ink a $3 billion deal with the US to purchase 30 SeaGuardian drones — 10 each for the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Army, and the Navy.