SCRAMBLE - On 11 August 2020, the Indian Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the procurement of defence equipment for an approximate cost of USD 2 billion, including 106 Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) HTT-40 basic trainer aircraft for the Bharatiya Vayu Sena (IAF, Indian Air Force).
The certification process is well underway for the new trainer. 70 HTT-40s will initially be procured, while a second group of 36 will be procured after operationalisation of the HTT-40 within the Indian Air Force.
The announcement of this basic trainer procurement comes a few days after the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) published its first list of 101 weapon systems and equipment it will no longer purchase from abroad. The expansive list covers a large spectrum of hardware, including transport aircraft, artillery guns, combat helicopters, radar systems, simulators, assault rifles, warships and more. The first set of items will be banned from import starting December 2020, followed by another set from December 2021 and a third from December 2022.
This will definitely mean that no further Pilatus PC-7 trainer aircraft will be procured. In August 2019, Scramble Magazine Facebook News (SFN) reported on the investigating of the Swiss company Pilatus for corruption allegations and the subsequent ban on all Indian dealings with Pilatus for at least a year (*). HAL reported that the additional requirement of 36 basic training aircraft could be added to the already committed order for 70 HTT-40s. According to HAL, the cost per aircraft would be lowered further when the total number was to exceed 100 aircraft. The Indian Air Force, however, painted a grim picture for its trainer aircraft fleet last year. It pointed out that efforts to develop a basic trainer under the HTT-40 programme was running five years behind schedule. The air force even expected that HAL's trainer was unlikely to even be certified for flight by 2021.
Although the certification process for the HTT-40 is not finished yet, the decision to buy "Make in India only" is very positive news for Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
(*) SFN 1 August 2019, HAL's HTT-40 ready by end of year