IAF still needs spares from suspended Swiss supplier
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is exploring the possibility of sourcing spares and components for its basic trainers from Pilatus Aircraft Limited even as the government has suspended business dealings with the Swiss planemaker for a year, two officials said on the condition of anonymity on Sunday.
The dealings were put on hold earlier this month after the firm was found to have violated an integrity pact in an earlier ~2,900-crore contract for 75 planes and also because of an ongoing investigation against the aircraft maker for alleged corruption and irregularities.
“It is a fact that Pilatus has been banned for a year. It is also a fact that we need spares and components for our Pilatus PC-7 MkII fleet. A 2014 government order provides for continuing business with such firms to avoid a crisis of spares. We plan to take that route and renegotiate with Pilatus as the follow-on maintenance contract has not been signed,” said one of the officials cited above.
Similar bans on Italian defence conglomerate Finmeccanica (now Leonardo) and British engineering giant Rolls-Royce in the past did not affect the supply of spares or after sales support, said the second official.
“The basic trainers are being used extensively and the requirement of spares is imminent to keep the fleet airworthy,” he said. Experts underlined the need for ensuring the spare supplies remained uninterrupted.
“The arrival of Pilatus planes in the IAF inventory has revolutionised basic training. It is imperative that high serviceability is ensured so that the feeding line to operational squadrons is not affected,” said Centre for Air Power Studies additional director general Air Vice Marshal (retired) Manmohan Bahadur. HT was the first to report on July 13 that the IAF had abandoned plans to buy 38 more Pilatus PC-7 MkII planes from Switzerland and launched a fresh global hunt for basic trainers, amid the ongoing investigations against the firm. The 2012 contract for 75 trainers contained a clause for a follow-on purchase of 38 more planes.
The defence ministry order on the suspension of dealings with Pilatus came on July 15.
It said Pilatus submitted a duly signed pre-contract integrity pact in November 2010 in connection with the 75 aircraft deal but later admitted in 2017 that it had engaged Offset India Solution Private Limited for its services and also paid it a million Swiss francs.
The reply given by Pilatus in June 2017 to a ministry’s show-cause notice was found unsatisfactory.
The Central Bureau of Investigation last month booked unnamed officials of the IAF and the defence ministry, Pilatus Aircraft Limited and absconding arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari for allegedly influencing the sale of 75 basic trainers.
The agency alleged that the planemaker deposited a million Swiss francs in the account of Offset India Solution Private Limited (of which Bhandari is a director) in two tranches in 2010. The Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax department are also investigating the firm.
Pilatus is yet to respond to an HT mail seeking its response on July 12.