Indian air force testing new basic trainer

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Trials of a new basic trainer for the Indian air force have begun, with seven aircraft vying to replace the service's grounded Hindustan Aeronautics HPT-32 Deepaks.

"The trial is ongoing, but we have no timeline for making a decision," the Indian defence ministry says.

Aircraft in contention for the planned 75-aircraft deal are the Airbus Military-promoted PZL-130 Orlik, Alenia Aermacchi M-311, Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano, Grob G120TP, Korea Aerospace Industries KT-1 and Pilatus PC-7.

Indian media reports suggest that Hawker Beechcraft's T-6C is also in contention, but the US aircraft maker has yet to confirm this.

The Indian defence ministry's initial request for proposal in early 2010 called for 75 aircraft to be purchased "off-the-shelf", and another 106 to be built by HAL under a joint venture arrangement.

Under current plans, the selected manufacturer will be required to deliver an initial batch of 12 aircraft within two years of a contract signature.

The air force's HPT-32 Deepaks were grounded in July 2009 following a spate of crashes.

Meanwhile, following New Delhi's decision in July to spend more than £700 million ($1 billion) on a further batch of 57 BAE Systems Hawk 132s, an air force source confirms that the country is no longer looking at other advanced jet trainers.

In early 2009 India requested information on the Hawk 128, plus the Aero Vodochody L-159, Alenia Aermacchi M-346, Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50, RSK MiG-AT and Yakovlev Yak-130.

India's latest deal represented a follow-on purchase to a previous order for 66 Hawk 132s. All of the new aircraft will be produced under licence by HAL in Bangalore.