Swiss airframer Pilatus has quickly established itself as a trusted supplier to the Indian air force because of the smooth entry into service and performance of its PC-7 MkII basic trainer aircraft (BTA). As of last month, its in-service examples had exceeded 22,000 flying hours and accumulated well over 42,000 landings.
The last 15 PC-7 MkIIs currently under contract – aircraft numbers 61 to 75 – will be based at air force station Tambaram near the southern Indian city of Chennai. Tambaram will receive its first trainers in June 2015, where they will be used to train flight instructors – a task currently carried out on vintage Hindustan Aeronautics Kiran MkII jet trainers.
An accelerated delivery schedule has already seen Pilatus deliver 51 trainers under a contract signed with New Delhi in 2012. The remainder are due to be handed over by August next year. Meanwhile, an option clause in the original contract for as many as 38 additional aircraft on top of the original 75 will expire in May, and is likely to be allowed to lapse.
“We want to execute our existing contract on time and to the full satisfaction of the Indian air force,” says Jim Roche, vice-president of government aviation and deputy chief executive at Pilatus, speaking at the company's Stans site in Switzerland. “We hope that over the next few months there would be a final clear guidance as to what particular road the Indian air force is following to finalise its BTA requirements.”
In March, India’s defence ministry issued a request for information (RFI) for the procurement of an additional 106 PC-7 MkII trainers under its "Buy & Make (Indian)" procurement category.
“We have been contacted by quite a large range of Indian companies who have approached us with regard to being able to be the prime contractor should the decision be Buy and Make India, as in this situation Pilatus cannot be the prime, ” says Roche. “Pilatus will provide detailed training to the successful Indian prime contractor on site here at Stans for the manufacturing and airframe assembly element of the programme.”
One area that remains to be resolved is the conclusion of the maintenance transfer of technology contract with HAL. This will allow the Indian company to keep the PC-7 MkII's systems and components in line with the original equipment manufacturer's agreed maintenance policy, ranging from detailed repair and overhaul capability to the replacement of components.
Source: Flight International