After the Indian Air Force (IAF) expressed its displeasure over the pace at which the indigenous Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) project was progressing, the State-owned aircraft maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has put the project on fast-track mode.
During the recent airshow, Aero India 2013, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne had stated that the IAF was disappointed over lack of progress in the project started in 2003.
He had even stated that the Air Force would not accept the trainer aircraft unless IAF’s concerns over delays and limitations of the aircraft engine were addressed.
“HAL is making all out efforts to achieve the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) as early as possible. The project is being closely monitored to ensure that any support or decisions required are given on a fast track mode,” HAL Chairman Dr R K Tyagi told Express.
More than 600 flights have been completed so far. However, considering the number of test flights that need to be completed, HAL expects to get IOC during the later half of this year.
HAL is also addressing the concerns over the aircraft engine.
“In the past, we faced major delays in getting the new Russian engines for the IJT. These issues are being sorted out. Now, the project is at an advanced stage of development,” said Tyagi.
The design modifications have been made on tandem seat aircraft that can fly at a maximum speed of 750 kmph with an altitude ceiling of 9 km. One prototype aircraft and three Limited Series Production aircraft are being flight tested towards obtaining IOC.
In fact, HAL did remarkably well in the beginning. First prototype of the aircraft took to skies in 2003, just 20 months after the project was actually taken up. But two back to back accidents in 2005 and 2007 air shows, and an engine change programme sent the project into tailspin.
IJT is expected to replace Kiran trainer aircraft that form the backbone of the IAF’s fighter training programme.
Kirans were inducted into service in 1970-71 and as per the original time line they were to be out of service by now. But they are still flown and will continue to fly with the IAF till 2014 as making of indigenous jet trainer is taking time.