India’s indigenous intermediate jet trainer (IJT) is all set to obtain its initial clearance for air force pilots to start operational flying on the aircraft by July this year, 14 years after the government sanctioned the project, a top commander said Thursday.
The manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is ‘very sure’ about Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) for the IJT by July, the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik told reporters at the Aero India trade show at Yelahanka air base in Bangalore.
HAL began designing of the IJT in 1997 and suffered two mishaps in 2007 and 2009. The jet will now be ready for induction into the IAF in another two more years.
The IJT’s two prototypes suffered minor crashes. The first took place in February 2007 when the Prototype-I suffered damage when its canopy flew off soon during take-off from Yelahanka. The aircraft veered to its right, burst a tire, damaged both its wings and finally collapsed in a heap of rubble. Fortunately, the pilot escaped without injury.
The second accident happened in February 2009 when the Prototype-II landed on its belly during a routine sortie. The aircraft suffered structural damage to its undercarriage and a wing.
“After the minor incidents, the project picked up speed with the flight trials finally getting over. We want its spin capability to improve and HAL is sure it can do it in a month or two. So more or less, IJT is ready for IOC,” the IAF deputy chief, Air Marshal R.K. Sharma, said.
The IJT is a stage-II trainer for rookie pilots before they graduate onto the Hawk advanced jet trainer (IJT), is a tandem seat, all metallic aircraft for general flying and training. It can also be used for formation flying, instrument and cloud flying, tactical flying, night flying and basic air-to-ground and air-to-air armament training.
With a maximum speed of 750 kmph, it has an altitude ceiling of 9 km and a maximum take-off weight of 5,100 kg, including 1,000 kg of armaments at five hard points. It can also carry drop tanks.
A conventional configuration aircraft incorporating manual flight controls, its cockpit is ergonomically designed, air conditioned and pressurized. It is equipped with lightweight ejection seats, with an avionics suite that introduces pilots to a cockpit environment of modern combat aircraft and cues for weapons delivery.