|HAL HJT-36 Sitara | Photo Courtesy Vayu Aerospace|
Now here’s the thing: the IAF had hoped the induction of the HJT-36 and the phase out of the Kiran would overlap, allowing for a small period of time when both aircraft would be operational together. This, now, almost certainly won’t be the case, say sources, considering the substantial proving work the HJT-36 still has ahead of it before it is ready for final operational clearance. And under no circumstances can the Kirans be pushed beyond early 2014. Therefore, the prospect (hopefully) of having a small number of new propeller trainers, a full fleet of advanced jet trainers and no Stage-2 aircraft is becoming increasingly real. In fact, the IAF is already accounting for such a scenario. The IAF has no plans to buy intermediate trainers from abroad. But remember, that’s precisely what they once said about basic trainers as well.
The IAF signed a contract with HAL for 12 Limited Series Production (LSP) HJT-36 aircraft in March 2006 and 73 fully certified aircraft in March 2010 with deliveries scheduled from June 2012. As the IAF said to a recent Parliamentary committee, “The project is running behind schedule.”