Sunday, October 07, 2012

Shadow Over India's Intermediate Jet Trainer

There's trouble in India's indigenous HAL intermediate jet trainer HJT-36 Sitara programme, and it's been brewing for a while now. First, the facts:

In an interview this week to AINOnline, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne is quoted to have said, "We are concerned as we are not seeing significant progress on the IJT. HAL put in a dedicated design team, yet there are no results. This is a training aircraft and we cannot compromise on safety." He also indicates in the interview that issues that continue to dog the IJT programme include "controls, engines and the aircraft’s weight, stall and spin characteristics".

The HJT-36 was to have entered service with the IAF in June this year as a Stage-II trainer, replacing the ageing HAL Kiran Mk.1/2s in service. But with trials still on to prove the platform as a robust training jet (one prototype crashed during spin tests in April last year), it is unlikely that the IJT will be accorded initial operational clearance (IOC) -- its immediate goal -- anytime soon. Optimistically, it could be towards the end of next year, but likely later. The IAF has on order 85 IJTs (12 LSPs and 73 production series aircraft).

Earlier this year, rumours swirled that the programme was on the edge of being scrapped altogether amidst its inability to deliver performance results to the IAF -- rumours that were quickly dispelled, albeit unofficially, by the IAF and HAL. But there are real situations the IAF needs to now plan for, and the IAF chief's interview (linked above) point to these.

Next year, the IAF will have no choice but to begin retiring most of its HAL Kiran Stage-II trainers. But with the IJT nowhere near entering service at that time, the IAF may be faced with a difficult choice -- (a) push its Kirans further, (b) juggle its training syllabus once again to make up for the lack of Stage-II training (like it has now with the absence of basic trainers) or, perhaps the most difficult/undesirable option for it, (c) acquire intermediate trainer jets from abroad. To be sure, this last option hasn't been lost on the global market.

Sources say the US Government has initiated (or plans to initiate) discussions with India over the possibility of a joint development that may have something to do with the now delayed Northrop T-38 Talon replacement programme, the T-X. I also hear Russia's Rosoboronexport is looking to brief the IAF on the Yak-130 jet trainer -- indeed, it has even begun advertising the aircraft in Indian trade journals.

This is not a healthy situation: from 2014, India's training arsenal will almost entirely comprise foreign aircraft -- the Pilatus PC-7 Mk.II for basic propeller training and the BAE Hawk Mk.132 for lead-in advanced jet training. At this point, it remains unclear what Indian pilot cadets will undergo crucial intermediate training on.


Saumya Srivastava said...

This project seems to be almost dead... HAL has license manufactured so many aircraft in the past....they have the technology....but they dont seem to absorb anything,for creating something new....IMO private players should be involved in JVs with large foreign giants so that they get the technology to atleast capitalize..apart from just assembling and license manufacturing..

KVR said...

Bring on the Jingos and Conspiracy Theorists.

Anonymous said...

And on top of this HAL is trying to develop another basic turbo trainer!!! HAL must focus on IJT and make it happen flawlessly. I wonder why IAF has "ordered" trainers even without a demo by HAL? Its high time HAL be given a moratorium for a year, let all key employees come up with what they can do to justify their existence. Its not good to place the entire trainer build into one basket HAL. They are already doing AJT with major quality deficiencies. Why another trainer?

Anonymous said...

To hell with the agents of foreign arms companies in the media and also IAF. To hell with the government which allows the services to become the largest importers in the world.

Anonymous said...

As a tax paying citizen, I want to know what results IAF has achieved since independence. Everybody can know how much has been spent on IAF. They have to be cajoled into taking part in emergencies and wars.

Anonymous said...

Yet again, the IAF is held hostage by the rank incompetence and staggering ineptitude of the HAL that we all know and loath.

It is a wonder why the IAF just doesn't show the HAL the finger and asks Mahindra Aerospace or the TATA's or somebody else in the private sector to "build/borrow/steal" them a jet trainer. Why should HAL get first dibs on everything when clearly they can't fold a decent paper plane to save their lives ?

At some point the IAF must realize that HAL is not their only option, especially when all the HAL will really do is cobble together foreign parts and avionics into a shoddy and most critically, an unsafe design bound to kill or maim dozens of pilots before it gets grounded!

Isn't it a safer long term investment to help build the private sector than trying to cut corners hoping for a miracle from the dysfunctional public sector moneypit that is the HAL or fleecing the taxpayer with the "foreign" option ??

Anonymous said...

There is really no requirement for an 'Intermediate' Jet Trainer - In all the major air force, training commences on a turboprop trainer and goes on to a jet trainer, followed by conversion to operational fighters/transport aircraft - it's yet another case of national funds being poured into a wasteful HAL project.

P.K.Chaudhuri said...

In view of the widespread corruption amongst the highest political families, May I ask a hypothetical question to the people of India and our enforcement agencies.

Suppose a ruling party asks a MNC to contribute one thousand Crore in the party’s election fund with a promise that if elected to power, an order worth Ten Billion Dollar will be placed on them. No crime is committed.

Many US, European, Russian and even Israeli companies will grab the opportunity and happily pay the amount. I appeal to the nation to examine if something similar really happened in the past and India retired a battle tested indigenously developed aircraft, HL24-Marut. This aircraft proved to be superior to the US make Sabre Jets during Indo-Pak war. Delay in induction of Main Battle Tank is exactly for same reasons. Procurement of Aircraft Carrier, Gorshkov is also an example in similar line. There are many such examples.

India must debate and deliberate on the issue and announce a policy for more dependence on indigenous weapons and ammunitions.

Anonymous said...

It is really a cause of concern that HAL has only screwdriver technology and they can only assemble under license of all imported components.They cannot evan assemble imported parts on their own.Basic trainer is a little more advanced than second world war fighters.It was 70 years ago P-51 mustang was designed and with feedback from the test pilots the engine was changed to spitfire Merlin engine and a world beater decisive weapon was born which changed the course of the war. The whole designing process took 19 months and in that time frame it was cutting edge technology and never ever tried.HAL badly failed in that effort with years of work , needless to say they were to fit it with some videshi engine as designing a turboprop engine is beyond the imagination of HAL.

IJT trainer is showing no progress with a poor decision of choice of engine AL 55 which is still experimental and unreliable and they should have selected Honeywell F 125 engine which is very reliable like GE 404 or GE 414 and designed the trainer around it.Designing the body is not very difficult and time consuming.This technology development should not have taken this long.It would have been a good decision had this project being given to some private company that takes pride in completing a prestigious project.It is out question that HAL would design the engine and few vital components as they are going to pick it up from the market.Is it worth now to keep those people in job who have not delivered anything in name of IJT.How can these people justify their job by not delivering anything workable which is reliable. I am happy about Tejas that the engine selection was a right decision and that is why so far not a single tejas has come down.Tejas needs lot lot of high end technology and it is difficult and time consuming but i cannot justify the delay in BASIC TRAINER as well as IJT as these are not that time consuming and not that complex technologies and selection of PILATUS clearly shows HAL missed the bus on basic trainer and i wont be surprised if IAF selects another videshi IJT. as HAL could not produce one.I feel angry with the degree of incompetence and lack of accountability.


Anonymous said...

So, its time for global tenders and kick backs. Hurray!

The airforce didnot took off in 1962and suddenly found the kargil mountains has grown so high overnight!

Do we really need the air-force in the era od WMDs?

Anonymous said...

Roadside two wheeeler mechanics deliver better then the so called engineers,designers and scientists of HAL .

Fauji said...

जिसे देखो वही प्राइवेट प्राइवेट भज रहा है. जितने घोटाले हुए हैं, उनमें प्राइवेट प्लेयर शामिल हैं. तीन समस्यायें हैं जो नहीं दिखतीं. बढती जनसँख्या, भ्रष्टाचार और साम्प्रदायिकता मतलब हिन्दुओं को तीसरे-चौथे दर्जे का नागरिक बनाने की कोशिशें.

Anonymous said...

Disband ADA, Split-up HAL, fire all in top two layers and 50% of third layer of management ...

Anonymous said...

Time to sell HAL NAL ADE, etc to private players, high-tech equipments and capable engineers are not being used efficienty, with privatization, there will be on time delivery and innovation!

Anonymous said...

Sell HAL, NAL, ADA to private players, big facilities, high tech equipment and capable engineers & scientists are giving poor result, with the private sector, all will be used efficently and be more productive!!

Nikdash said...

There is absolutely no way that this bird will fly. After spending billions on Hawk and Pilatus, a home grown low cost solution can be easily bribed to extinction. A lot of money can be made here if an import is selected.

The writing is on the wall, no point in looking away.

I think we need to explode a nuclear bomb or two to make this project successful. In fact every time the middle men try to force an arms deal, just explode a nuke!

Anonymous said...

Dear Jingos,

In all this noise about hal,kickbacks etc. nobody is speaking about the replacement of the basic fighter - Mig 21. In any combat we shall need these chaps up there in large numbers fighting off the enemy and protecting our points while the Su's , Rafales Mirages shall be performing item numbers . Mig 29 is practically dead , F 16 's are no no for obvious reasons and Tejas is still in lalaland and let us face it will never be available in sufficent numbers.

So what do we do ? I feel that a purchase of 50 to 75 gripens in its pure air defense avatar to fill in the gap is absolutely imparative. Alternatively the Hawk trainer in its 100/200 avatar just might fill in the gap as a modern missile armed Gnat .

What says you ????

Shahid said...

What benefit HAL/IAF officials would get in case of indigenous IJT?only the imported aircrafts gauranteed commision/kick backs.