US defense company Textron has offered the newly developed Scorpion light attack jet in response to the Indian Air Force (IAF) Request For Information (RFI) for an Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), which can double as a light attack aircraft.
Although the process is at a preliminary stage, the RFI has given rise to a number of points of interest.
Firstly, although the IAF has sent the RFI to all potential aircraft manufacturers, there is, in fact, no intermediate jet trainer in production anywhere in the world, at this point.
Boeing, which has recently been in a tie-up with Swedish aviation company Saab for the development of a new trainer aircraft, has also decided not to respond to the request.
An emailed response from Boeing said, “While we appreciate the opportunity, we do not plan to participate in the IAF’s Request for Information at this time. Presently, we are not in a position to meet the specific published requirements for an intermediate jet trainer.”
The company clarified, “Boeing has partnered with Saab to compete for the T-X competition in the U.S. and we are focused on creating an all-new purpose-built Family of Systems training solution, including an advanced trainer, designed to meet the specific needs of the U.S. Air Force.”
The IAF RFI is specific about its interest in an aircraft that can also undertake a light attack role. Doubtless, it is this aspect that driven Textron to respond, considering the design idea behind the Scorpion. But although the RFI has inquired about a single-engine aircraft, the Scorpion Airland is twin-engined.
It is, however, not clear whether the RFI could proceed to the RFP stage, considering the absence of a production aircraft of the specified type.
Unlike many other air forces, the IAF continues with its three-stage aircraft training program, which begins with the basic trainer, a role taken over by the Pilatus PC-7, and culminates with training on the Hawk. Unlike these other air forces, there is lesser emphasis on simulator training, requiring the intermediate trainer as well as an emphasis on flight hours for training. Other countries have put together a mix of training on basic trainers, advanced trainers and substantial simulator training, precluding the intermediate trainer from their programs, entirely.
This absence of an intermediate trainer from these programs is also the reason for the lack of demand for such an aircraft, which is why no manufacturer builds a production aircraft of the type.
Also significant is the IAF’s interest in the light attack role for the aircraft, which could mean a different mission profile for it, beyond training.