The Indian air force is adamant about its preference for the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II turboprop trainer for a 181 aircraft requirement, while rival bidders are reportedly eager to keep their candidates in the running.

An industry source familiar with the $1 billion competition said Pilatus's entry with the PC-7 likely surprised rivals in the competition, as it is a less advanced aircraft than the company's PC-21 - albeit considerably less expensive.

Nonetheless, Indian media reports suggested rival bidders are pressing the nation's government to keep their aircraft in the race. Other types that underwent technical trials by the Indian air force include the Airbus Military-promoted PZL-130 Orlik, Alenia Aermacchi M-311, Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano, Grob G120TP, Korea Aerospace Industries KT-1 and Raytheon T-6 Texan.

Indian media reports said KAI is particularly anxious about having its KT-1 re-instated in the competition, although company representatives were unavailable to discuss the matter.

The air force, for its part, is sticking by its preference. "As far as we're concerned there is no dispute," it said.

The source added that Pilatus is conducting commercial negotiations with the Indian government, which will be followed by the Ministry of Finance obtaining budget for the deal from India's parliament. If approved, 75 aircraft will delivered in a flyaway condition, with another 106 to be produced by Hindustan Aeronautics in India.

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 Indian air force is in urgent need of new basic trainers after the 2009 grounding of its HAL HPT-32 Deepak basic trainers owing to a spate of crashes.

India also wants to develop an indigenous replacement for the HPT-32. At February'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) wing span, 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 up to 19,700ft.

Source: Flight International