Tuesday, August 28, 2012

IAF getting its Training Program back on track with Pilatus

Indian Air Force is now going fast track on development of its training infrastructure. After remaining mired in stagnant years due to lack of decision making and painful procurement process, finally there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

The training curriculum of Indian Air Force consists of three stages - 
  • Stage 1 - Basic
  • Stage 2 - Intermediate
  • Stage 3 - Advanced

If we rewind few years, then this is how trainer aircraft were mapped to each stage -
  • Basic - HAL HPT-32 Deepak
  • Intermediate - HAL HJT-16 Kiran Mark I
  • Advanced -  HAL HJT-16 Kiran Mark II

But there has always been problems with this setup; pilots had to directly move from Kiran Mark II to Mig 21. MIg 21 was an extremely demanding aircraft for a pilot. As one senior pilot had famously mentioned, "Mig 21 is a beautiful, but an unforgiving aircraft." This was one of the major reason that so many precious lives and formidable war machines were lost from 90s to 2000. An inexperience pilot on a Mig 21 was not a very good combination, however, Indian Air Force had limited choices on that front. But Indian Air Force had recognized that this is a severe problem and had to be resolved at the earliest.

IAF went into the overdrive to look for a better aircraft for "Advance Stage Training" of its pilots, so that transition to Mig 21 could be streamlined in an efficient manner. As progress towards search for a trainer aircraft towards "Advanced Stage Training" was underway, there came another threat in form of obsolescence of HPT-32 Deepak, whose rate of accidents started shooting up. Finally when one aircraft crashed in an aero-show at Hyderabad, IAF realized that it has got another major problem in hand.

In year 2012, things are finally started to look up in much better shape for IAF, as far as its training program is concerned. If we take a look at present and the future, then this is how trainer aircraft are / will be mapped to each stage -

  • Basic - Pilatus PC-7 ( From Feb 2013 )

Pilatus PC-7 on a sortie ( Image Courtesy - softpedia.com ) 

  • Intermediate - HAL HJT-36 Sitara ( Under development )

HAL Sitara on a test flight ( Image Courtesy - defenceforumindia.com )

  • Advanced -  BAE Hawk

BAE Hawk in IAF colours ( Image Courtesy - defence.pk )

We do hope that with the induction of these sophisticated training platforms, Indian Air Force will be able to train its pilots in the best possible way, as it had always desired.

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