Fulfiling Air Force's long-pending requirement, government on Thursday cleared a proposal worth over Rs 1,800 crore for procuring 75 Pilatus aircraft from Switzerland to train its rookie pilots.
Government has approved the deal to procure 75 Pilatus Basic Trainer Aircraft for IAF, highly placed defence ministry sources told PTI in New Delhi.
The decision was taken at a meeting of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on Thursday evening chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The deal was hanging fire for last one year after one of the contender Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) alleged that Pilatus’ bid was incomplete and it did not fulfil some of the requirements of Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) instituted by government.
The aircraft are being procured by the IAF to provide training to its rookie pilots and replace the HPT-32 trainer aircraft which have been grounded for over two years after a fatal accident in 2009, Defence Ministry officials said.
The delivery of the planes are expected to begin by the middle of 2013.
The deal is critical for IAF's training requirements as in the next two years, there will be a shortage of Kiran Mk II trainer aircraft which are being used to impart flying lessons to the new trainee cadets in the flying branch of the IAF.
Recently, the Parliament's Standing Committee on Defence also highlighted the "critical deficiency" of trainer aircraft for the young IAF pilots.
The Committee had also noted that the deficiency of trainer aircraft has resulted in inadequate training of the pilots.
"The critical deficiency of trainer aircraft and simulators is resulting in inadequate training to fighter pilots leading to loss of life of the trained pilot which is a great loss to the families and the country as a whole," the Committee had said.
Since 2009, the IAF has relied on Kiran Mk II aircraft for providing basic training to its young pilots. Advanced training to them is provided on the Hawk aircraft procured from the UK.
As the turboprop low-wing tandem-seat aircraft, Pilatus is capable of providing all basic training functions, including aerobatics, instrument, tactical and night flying.
The air force also plans to send some of its young pilots to Switzerland for training till the delivery of initial batch of 12 aircraft commence in 2013.