India Pilatus trainer announcement delayed by protests

Singapore
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India's announcement of a new basic trainer appears to have been delayed by a protest mounted by the South Korean government about the tendering process.

An industry source said India's Cabinet Committee on Security, which was due to approve the acquisition of Pilatus PC-7 MK II basic trainers in early January, has yet to give the go-ahead for the purchase because of questions about the tender from the country's Ministry of Finance.

When contacted by Flightglobal, India's Ministry of Defence and the Indian Air Force (IAF) declined to comment on the matter.

The South Korean protest to the Ministry of Defence apparently involves the competition's commercial bids, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The sources said Pilatus failed to submit the figures for the PC-7's 'maintenance transfer of technology' cost, thus improving the competitiveness of the Swiss company's bid.

Aside from the PC-7, other contenders for the requirement included the Airbus Military-promoted PZL-130 Orlik, Alenia Aermacchi M-311, Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano, Grob G120TP, Korea Aerospace Industries KT-1 and Beechcraft T-6C.

The defence ministry's initial request for proposals in early 2010 called for 75 aircraft to be purchased "off-the-shelf" and an additional 106 aircraft to be built by Hindustan Aeronautics under a joint venture.

The selected manufacturer would be required to deliver an initial batch of 12 aircraft within two years of a contract signature.

The IAF arguably needs new basic trainers more urgently than any other type. The force has suffered from a major capability gap in training in recent years, with the IAF's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

HPT-32 Deepak basic trainers were grounded in July 2009 following a series of crashes.

In addition, India wants to develop an indigenous replacement to the HPT-32. At 2011's Aero India show, a model of the proposed HTT-40 was on display at the HAL stand.

The HTT-40 will have an 11m (36ft) wingspan, a fuselage length of 11.3m and a maximum take-off weight of 2,800kg (6,170lb).

The type will be capable of flying at a maximum speed of 243kt (450km/h) and at altitudes of up to 19,700ft.