In another couple of months, the nation will achieve a major milestone in building an IJT for its Air Force. IJT, which is being developed by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), is all set for its initial operational clearance (IOC), ahead of its final operational clearance (FOC) by December.Defence Minister A K Antony had informed Parliament on Monday in written replies to MPs’ queries that all efforts were being made to achieve the FOC by December 2014 and for production beginning immediately thereafter.
Presently, Antony told the Lok Sabha that the development of IJT is in the ‘advanced stages of certification’ with more than 800 test flights completed so far.
“The activities are progressing well with completion of sea-level trials, night flying trials, high-altitude trials as well as weapon and drop tank trials,” he said.
“The activities left for obtaining the FOC are the refinement of stall characteristics and thereafter spin testing,” he added.
The IJT project, called Sitara, had been sanctioned in 1999 and the first and the second prototypes of the aircraft flew in March 2003 and in March 2004, respectively. The prototypes were initially flight tested with the Larzac engines from Snecma and to meet the technical parameters, a high-powered engine AL-55I from Russia was selected based on a global tender.
Due to developmental issues in Russia, flight-worthy engines were supplied to HAL in January 2009 against the contractual schedule of January 2007.
Flights with these engines commenced in May 2009 after resolution of engine-aircraft interface issues with the Russians. The progress of the project was affected due to loss of prototype during flight testing, which necessitated major changes like total redesign of flight control system and associated increased number of design iteration for recovery and resolution.