New Delhi: India’s HPT-32 indigenous basic trainer claimed the lives of 23 rookie pilots, forcing the Indian Air Force (IAF) to ground it for good in 2009.
This was stated by the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, here Monday at the annual press conference ahead of the Air Force Day on October 8, when he also noted that the IAF was replacing the HPT-32s with the Pilatus PC-7 for training its new pilot recruits in flying.
“Training is an area of concern for IAF. The focus is entirely on training now. If not, it becomes a matter of safety of pilots,” Browne said, noting that “HPT-32 basic trainer had 108 engine cuts and 23 pilot fatalities”
“So, in 2009, we grounded the HPT-32s,” he said, pointing out that the confidence levels of pilots to fly the aircraft had gone down.
Browne said that the IAF had shortlisted the Pilatus aircraft as its choice for an order for 75 basic trainers and the approval of the finance ministry was awaited in this regard.
“This contract may be signed by the end of October,” he added.
The HJT-16 Kirans, Browne said, too were old aircraft, but the IAF wanted to use the plane for some more years. However, the next batch of newly recruited pilots will be flying the British-origin Hawk advanced jet trainers.
“Insha Allah, we should get the Pilatus by July 2013,” he said, adding that the IAF has changed its training syllabus to suit the new trainer aircraft fleet.
The IAF chief also said that the force had successfully brought down the officer shortage from 1,400 vacancies in 2007 to 541 vacancies in 2011 through a series of recruitment drives. “We expect to even out the shortages by 2014-15,” he added.
On the reported declining combat levels of the IAF, Browne clarified that it would stand at 32 fighter squadrons from now till the induction of the Medium Multi Role Combat aircraft (MMRCA) by 2015-16.
“Then we will look up at a different type of capability of the IAF altogether,” he said, pegging the total number of squadrons at 42 by 2022.
He also noted that the IAF will augment its helicopter fleet with the delivery of the first four of the 80 Mi-17V5 helicopters that it ordered from Russia in 2008.
Browne said the IAF would get 12 Mi-17V5 to form a squadron in Bhatinda by end of October and the squadron will later move to Suratgarh.
It will get another 21 by December this year and another 26 of the Mi-17V5 by March next year when another squadron would be based in Srinagar to serve the troops headed for the Siachen glacier.