Parrikar ponders making IAF basic trainers in India | india | Hindustan Times
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Parrikar ponders making IAF basic trainers in India

With the Modi government’s Make in India initiative on his mind, defence minister Manohar Parrikar has asked the Indian Air Force (IAF) to submit a status report on utilisation of Swiss Pilatus PC-7 basic trainer aircraft before okaying the option of purchasing 106 more such planes.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2015 01:41 IST
Shishir Gupta

With the Modi government’s Make in India initiative on his mind, defence minister Manohar Parrikar has asked the Indian Air Force (IAF) to submit a status report on utilisation of Swiss Pilatus PC-7 basic trainer aircraft before okaying the option of purchasing 106 more such planes.

The follow-up purchase will cost the nation about Rs 7,000 crore. The then UPA government had in May 2012 ordered 75 Pilatus trainers in a deal worth `2,896 crore.

South Block sources said Parrikar wants to know whether the current fleet of 62 Pilatus trainers — out of 75 inducted aircraft — is being utilised properly, with each plane logging between 150 and 200 flying hours every month. Apparently, the minister wants additional basic trainers to be jointly manufactured as part of the Make in India initiative rather than be bought off the shelf from abroad.

US under secretary of acquisition, technology and logistics Frank Kendall arrives in India on Wednesday to discuss this option among other items for bilateral defence cooperation with secretary (defence production) G Mohan Kumar.

Top sources say Prime Minister Narendra Modi had discussed the Make in India option for basic trainers with US President Barack Obama during his India visit last month. The other contenders for basic trainers are US Beechcraft T-6 and German Grob G 115. The manufacturers of both types are said to be enthused by the Make in India plan.

The IAF prepares its fighter pilots after training them on basic trainers, intermediate jet trainers and advanced jet trainers, in that order. Last November, the IAF had moved the defence acquisition council for exercising the option of purchasing another 106 aircraft, with total requirement set at 181 aircraft. Under this proposal India was to buy 38 Pilatus planes off the shelf and domestically produce remaining 68 at the IAF’s Sulur facility near Coimbatore, or purchase 10 aircraft outright and make the remaining 96 in India.