106 locally made trainer aircraft in India’s Rs 8,700 crore buying blitz
Basic trainers figure on the government’s negative import list that seeks to ban the import of 101 different types of weapons, systems and ammunition over the next five years.Updated: Aug 11, 2020 20:18 IST
The defence ministry on Tuesday gave its go-ahead for the purchase of military equipment worth Rs 8,722 crore, including 106 locally made basic trainer aircraft, for the Indian Air Force to provide a push to the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ (self-reliant India movement), a defence ministry spokesperson said.
Basic trainers figure on the government’s negative import list that seeks to ban the import of 101 different types of weapons, systems and ammunition over the next five years.
The ministry’s defence acquisition council (DAC) accorded its acceptance of necessity (AoN) for buying 106 Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40 (HTT-40) aircraft from state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at a meeting chaired by defence minister Rajnath Singh.
Under India’s defence procurement rules, AoN by the council is the first step towards buying military hardware.
“With HAL having successfully developed HTT-40 prototypes and certification process underway, the DAC approved procurement of 106 basic trainers to address the training requirements of the IAF,” the ministry said in a statement. The IAF is expected to order 70 trainers initially, with the remaining 36 to be bought after the operationalisation of the HTT-40 fleet in the IAF.
This is the first step in a long journey ahead, said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.
“While it’s a thumbs-up for the design and development of the HTT-40, HAL has to rise to the occasion now and produce them to a time schedule that the IAF wants. Work ethics would require a change to do that,” Bahadur said.
The HTT-40 aircraft has undergone a string of elaborate tests at HAL to demonstrate that it is safe for rookie pilots and meets the IAF’s exacting standards for trainer planes. HAL could begin the production of the trainers by early next year.
Rookie pilots in IAF go through a three-stage training involving the Pilatus PC-7 MkII planes, Kiran trainers and finally the Hawk advanced jet trainers before they can fly fighter jets. As the Kirans are approaching the end of their service life, some amount of Stage 2 training is being done on the PC-7.
The defence ministry in July 2019 suspended business dealings with Swiss plane maker Pilatus Aircraft Limited for one year for violation of a pre-contract integrity pact in a Rs 2,900-crore contract for 75 basic trainers, and also factoring in Indian investigations against the plane maker for alleged corruption and irregularities.
The contract with Pilatus included a clause for follow-on purchase of 38 more planes.
The DAC - India’s apex procurement body - also cleared the purchase of an upgraded version of the super rapid gun mount (SRGM) which is fitted as the main gun onboard warships, to improve the navy’s firepower, the statement said. This weapon will be supplied by Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL). “The upgraded version of SRGM has enhanced capability to perform against fast manoeuvring targets like missiles,” the statement said.
Other defence items cleared for purchase include tank ammunition – the 125 mm APFSDS (Armour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot). It will have 70% indigenous content. The statement said some of the other approvals given by the DAC will accelerate the purchase of AK-203 assault rifles and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) upgrades.
India on Sunday announced that it will ban the import of 101 defence items over the next five years, a significant step on the long road towards achieving self-reliance in the defence sector.
These include artillery guns, light military transport aircraft, conventional submarines, long-range land attack cruise missiles, assault rifles, sniper rifles, short-range surface-to-air missiles, beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, corvettes, missile destroyers, light combat helicopter, light combat aircraft, a variety of radars and different types of ammunition.