Crisis period to be over with induction of Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II

Issue No. 15 | August 01-15, 2012

In an interview with SP’s M.A.I., Air Marshal Rajinder Singh, AOC-in-C, Training Command, Indian Air Force (IAF), spoke about the training pattern in the IAF and the status of the trainer aircraft. Excerpts:

SP’s M.A.I. (SP’s): What is your broad vision of training in the IAF?

AOC-in-C: Keeping pace with the changing times, we have taken giant leaps in inducting advanced technology into the Air Force. Our main challenge today is to develop the human resources for absorbing the technology and proficiently utilising it as a weapon system to accomplish the objectives of the IAF. While flying and ground training forms the core curriculum of training, key result areas (KRAs) for this Command also include enhancing flight safety awareness, inculcating pride and soldierly attributes among all trainees and improving the quality of life of our air warriors.

SP’s: Can you please update our readers on the training pattern being followed now?

AOC-in-C: We faced serious crisis when HPT-32 aircraft had to be grounded for safety issues, in July 2009. The entire flying training pattern had to be modified based on the training needs vis-a-vis the resources available. Optimisation of flying training was undertaken in phases. Our first priority was to ensure ab initio flying training continued unhindered, albeit on jet aircraft, as against the IAF philosophy of propeller and jet combination. Towards this, the Qualified Flying Instructors Course (QFIC) held at the Flying Instructors School, Tambaram was curtailed and all Kiran Mk-I aircraft were shifted to Air Force Academy and Air Force Station Hakimpet for pre-commissioning training. The syllabus also had to be pruned down, especially in ab initio training phase. Subsequently, Kiran Mk-II aircraft of Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) were allotted to FIS for continuation of QFIC.

In order to maintain the quantum of flying for each trainee in the face of dwindling Kiran Mk-I assets, for the first time in July this year, we have bifurcated the ab initio flying trainees in to fixed wing (jet trainers) and rotary wing (helicopters), even before a trainee commences flying.

And now with the contract signed for induction of 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II aircraft into the IAF, we will once again revert back to propeller and jet aircraft combination for pre-commissioning flying training and also enhancing the flying training syllabus to original status, starting from July 2013.

SP’s: What is the induction plan for the Pilatus PC-7 basic trainer fleet?

AOC-in-C: We are happy that the crisis period for flying training is going to be over soon with the induction of Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II aircraft. Our pilots, engineering officers and technicians are going for training to Switzerland in November this year, following which the aircraft is planned to be inducted at the Air Force Academy, Dundigal, Hyderabad, from January next year. This aircraft is very capable and a proven trainer aircraft which is being used for training in many air forces around the world. We have already commenced infrastructure development for inducting the aircraft and plan to undertake the flying training of ab initio trainees on this new fleet starting from July 2013.

As regards the indigenous equivalent of the basic trainer aircraft (BTA), there is a proposal by the HAL to provide equitable number of aircraft with similar air staff quality requirements (ASQRs). The production plans are at a nascent stage and the timelines for induction cannot be commented upon at the moment.

SP’s: What is the status of the Hawk advanced jet trainer fleet?

AOC-in-C: Sixty six Hawk aircraft have been inducted into the IAF till date to fill the void of advanced jet trainers (AJT), replacing the MiG-21s. Out of these, 24 were delivered by BAE Systems and 42 have been delivered by HAL, last one being handed over in June this year. The aircraft has, since its induction in February 2008, trained many fighter pilots of the IAF in the art of combat flying. It is a wonderful training aircraft. However, there were a few teething problems initially, most of which have been resolved with time. Some remaining issues are being addressed through regular joint project review meetings with BAE and HAL. We have also placed an additional order for 40 aircraft with the HAL, which will be located at Air Force Station Kalaikunda in West Bengal.

SP’s: What are the plans for replacement of the Kiran fleet?

AOC-in-C: We are aware of the fact that the Kiran fleet is aging and accordingly plans for induction of intermediate jet trainer (IJT) aircraft from the HAL was approved by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) quite some time back. As per original schedule, this aircraft should have been flying in the IAF by now. However, due to certain unforeseen delays in the design and development of the project, the timelines have slipped.