boss, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, had dismissively stated at the Aero India show in 2013. “We have the Pilatus PC-7. It’s a proven aircraft. The project HAL plans is from scratch. Our indications are that the cost will be too high. There is no need for all this.” Each successive
chief followed the same line, criticizing the HTT-40, while demanding more Pilatus imports.
As Business Standard reported (June 10, 2019, “IAF block on indigenous HTT-40 trainer aircraft keeps door open for Swiss trainers”) the current IAF chief refused to even issue a tender for the HTT-40, which was needed to procure engines for the production aircraft. The IAF stated it would only do so after the HTT-40 cleared the six-turn spin tests. HAL has responded to IAF opposition with defiance. Successive HAL chiefs backed the HTT-40, committing Rs 350 crore of internal HAL funds to the project. A team of young, talented HAL designers have worked without IAF assistance or funding, backed to the hilt by former defence ministers, A K Antony and Manohar Parrikar.
For the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II trainer, the procurement of which is already under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigation, this most likely spells the end of further imports. The HTT-40 falls under the category of “Indian designed, developed and manufactured” (IDDM) equipment, and the MoD cannot import more Pilatus without a detailed explanation of why the HTT-40 is being ignored.
“For HAL, clearing the HTT-40’s six-turn spin tests removes a monkey from our backs. Our intermediate jet trainer (IJT) aircraft had failed its spin tests and we were determined this would not be the fate of the HTT-40. In fact, not just has the HTT-40 cleared its spin and stall tests, we have revived the IJT project as well,” said HAL’s design chief, Arup Chatterjee.
HAL has manufactured the IAF’s fleet of Hawk advanced jet trainers (AJT), with technology from BAE Systems. With the HTT-40 poised for final clearance, a breakthrough on the IJT could mean that the IAF’s entire training aircraft fleet comprises of HAL-built aircraft.