Indian air force Kirans to fly on, as IJT wait continues

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India’s defence ministry has announced that delays in the entry to service of the Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) Sitara intermediate jet trainer (IJT) will require the Indian air force to continue flying its ageing Kiran Mk 1 trainers until 2017-2018.

In a statement, the ministry says the decision to extend the use of the Kiran was “due to repeated revisions in the timeline set for the initial operational clearance [IOC] of IJT, and also considering the present state of the project regarding induction of the IJT in the Indian air force”. The total technical life of the existing type will be extended to reach the new retirement schedule, it adds.

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Aero India

Designed and developed by HAL as a replacement for the Kiran, the HJT-36 Sitara has experienced repeated delays, but senior HAL officials have said they are confident of IOC status being obtained this year.

Weapons trials have already been completed and stall testing is currently under way, following which spin trials will begin. BAE Systems has been helping HAL to resolve issues related to the IJT’s stall- and spin-related handling qualities.

HAL plans to launch manufacturing of a limited series production batch of 12 aircraft as soon as IOC has been achieved. The Indian air force has a stated requirement for this initial number, plus 73 series production examples.

Meanwhile, HAL has selected the engine for its in-development HTT-40 basic trainer, and says design and development activities should be completed in 2015. Deliveries are expected to commence from 2017.

The Indian air force has a total requirement for 106 basic trainers, and already has 75 PC-7 Mk IIs on order from Pilatus, with the option to order 37 more by next year. The service, which has so far received 26 of the type, has made it clear that it would prefer to have its entire fleet centred on the Swiss type. An earlier statement released by India’s defence ministry says the air force “has expressed reservations over acquiring the HTT-40”.