Indian Air Force buys 75 PC-7 Mk II trainers


The Indian Air Force has entered into a contract with Pilatus for 75 new PC-7 Mk II turboprop trainers, worth more than 500 million Swiss Francs.

Pilatus yesterday announced that the contract also includes an integrated ground based training system and a comprehensive logistics support package. The contract also contains an option clause for extending the scope of this contract within three years from initial signature and the company is optimistic that this will be executed.

The Indian Air Force joins more than 30 other countries to order Pilatus trainers. Pilot training is a major issue for the Indian Air Force, especially as it urgently needs to replace its 180-200 HAL HPT-32 Deepaks that were grounded in July 2009 after a fatal crash. Seven aircraft were evaluated between October and December 2010, with the Korea Aerospace Industries KT-1, Pilatus PC-7 and Hawker Beechcraft T-6C emerging as the leading contenders. In addition to the new aircraft, HAL is developing an indigenous counterpart in the turboprop HTT-40 basic trainer.

Intermediate and advanced training in the Indian Air Force is provided by the HAL HJT-16 Kiran, which will be replaced by the HAL HJT-36 Sitara jet trainer, which has been under development since 1997. In addition, the Indian Air Force also has the BAE Systems Hawk Mk 132 advanced trainer in service. In 2004, 66 Hawks were acquired after twenty years of negotiations (the Hawk and Alpha Jet were evaluated in the 1980s). Another 40 Hawks were ordered in July 2010, at a cost of US$779 million. The Hawks were bought to lower the IAF’s high accident rate, particularly with the MiG-21. In addition, 17 extra Hawks were ordered for the Navy. India’s first 24 Hawks were bought as flyaways while the rest are being built under license by HAL.

The Indian Air Force is the fourth largest air force in the world with approximately 170,000 personnel and 1,500 aircraft operating from more than 60 air bases.

Delivery of the aircraft and the complete training system is scheduled to commence in the fourth quarter of this year, Pilatus said. “Pilatus Aircraft Ltd views this contract for the Indian Air Force as a major success and believes it will encourage other forces to take a close look at our pilot training solution.”

Coupled to the contract will be the establishment of in-country depot level maintenance capabilities, which includes the required transfer of technology to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), enabling in-country maintenance of the platform throughout its service life of over 30 years.

Pilatus has also entered into a separate off-set contract with the Government of India for 30% of the value of the contract and sees this as a major opportunity. “Pilatus has significant confidence in the Indian Defence market with its highly skilled workforce and it is our intention to leverage the offset opportunity to establish manufacturing capability for the region in support of our business plans for India,” the Swiss company said.

Meanwhile, Pilatus is in the midst of upgrading the cockpits of the South African Air Force’s 35-strong fleet. In 1993 South Africa purchased 60 PC-7 Mk IIs for US$175 million to replace its North American Harvards in what was the country’s first post-apartheid defence purchase. It was also the first order for the PC-7 Mk II variant, which combines features of the PC-7 and PC-9. Deliveries began in October 1994.