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IAF selects Swiss Pilatus PC-7 Mark II as its Basic Trainer


By Our Correspondent Published: July 2011

New Delhi. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has selected the Swiss Pilatus PC-7 Mark II as its basic trainer.


Outgoing IAF Chief of Staff Air Chief Marshal P V Naik said in his farewell press conference July 26 that the Government would hold discussions with the manufacturer, Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland, to finalize a deal for outright purchase of 75 aircraft, and that he expected the machine to be delivered from 2013 onwards.

At present, IAF has no basic trainer for rookie pilots as the Indian-made HPT 32 was withdrawn from service two years ago after several accidents, some of them fatal. Cadets instead are pushed straight to jet trainers at the Air Force Training Academy.

Pilatus PC-7 is a very basic but reliable trainer, and that is “what we need” for beginners, Air Chief Marshal Naik told India Strategic in an interview recently.

The deal is expected to be signed within this year. Tendered amounts are not available but according to unconfirmed market reports, it could be worth $ one billion inclusive of training and support. Some pilots would be sent to Stans in Swizerland, and they would train other pilots on return.

It may be noted that the IAF is under a major transformation, inducting new combat and transport aircraft as well as helicopters, and modernization of airbases. The selection of the basic trainer has been substantially delayed due to the false hopes in rectifying the problems in the indigenous HPT 32.

It takes five years and substantial expenditure on training a pilot from ab initio stage, or the beginning. But now at least the choice can be described as timely for otherwise, the entire process of inducting new combat and other aircraft could also be negatively affected.

Pilatus PC-7 has emerged as the winner from among six contestants, three of whom were short-listed after technical trials. Korean Aerospace’s KT-1 and Hawker Beechcraft’s T-6C lost out after being short-listed, while the other three, Brazilian Embraer’s EMB-312 Super Tucano, Finmeccanica’s M-311 and German Grob’s G-120 TP did not make it in the technical trials.

The low-wing PC-7 can also perform aerobatics, and tactical and night flying. It has tandem seating, which arrangement is preferred by the IAF, for the instructor and the rookie.

The Pilatus Aircraft company, established in 1939, primarily sells a variety of single engine turboprop aircraft. The company has sold more than 500 PC-7 and PC-7 Mark II beginning 1994 to 21 air forces around the world.

Says the company: Offering a reliable and economic training platform, the docile behaviour of the PC-7 MkII in the hands of a beginner delivers a confidence-building environment for inexperienced cadets. With its highly cost-efficient Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25C engine, it provides the lowest engine operating costs of all turboprop trainer aircraft.

It says that safety, intuitive system controls, and flexibility of avionics configuration are the three main features of the cockpit, . The stepped tandem cockpit layout provides excellent visibility from both cockpits, unobstructed by a front canopy bow. All instruments, displays and controls are ergonomically positioned to allow easy and safe operation of the aircraft in all flight regimes. The tandem arrangement of all controls, communications and navigation systems allows the instructor to effectively observe, assist, or override the student’s actions as necessary.

The aircraft is also equipped with ejection seats, an anti-g system and On-Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS).

All types of students who aim to fly fighter aircraft, transport aircraft, or helicopters will benefit from the experience gained in the modern cockpit environment of the PC-7 MkII, says a company statement.

  © India Strategic  
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