Faced with an acute shortage, the air force is seeking to lease at least 20 basic trainer aircraft for training pilots, with a request for information sent out to global vendors earlier this month. The plan to lease aircraft to meet immediate requirements come even as the current fleet of Pilatus PC 7 basic trainer aircraft are facing serviceability issues, given that the parent company has been banned from India on corruption allegations.
The leased aircraft – a first for the air force under a new policy – will fill the gap of three to four years when the indigenous HTT-40 basic trainer is expected to join service in significant numbers. Earlier, plans to order additional PC-7s had been cancelled after the company got embroiled in an official investigation.
The request for information to vendors specifies that preference will be given to Indian companies for the contract, though global entities have been invited to participate. It specifies that the air force needs a trainer that can undertake four to six sorties a day for intensive training of pilots. It also requires the leasing company to maintain the aircraft during the duration of service and provide a simulator for pilots as well.
“The BTA (Basic trainer aircraft) would be used for imparting ab-initio training to pilots in IAF. The aircraft will be operated for military training purpose from an IAF base,” it specifies, adding that the plan is for `training requirements for an initial period of three to four years extendable in batches of two years’.
The air force is facing a shortage of basic and intermediate trainers, though it has adequate number of advanced trainers in service. At present 260 trainer aircraft are in service for training of pilots, besides 14 helicopters and 26 Dorniers and 16 An 32 aircraft for transport pilots. The air force is also short of 405 pilots against the sanctioned strength of 4239 officers. Besides plans to induct additional trainers, the air force is also opening a new selection centre in Guwahati from next month that will increase the intake capacity.