It’s understandable that the Indian Air Force enjoys displaying its newest acquisitions at Aero India. But this year, they’re showing off the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II trainer (see photo), a decision I thought was dumb beyond description. They decided not to showcase the AgustaWestland AW101 VVIP copter, presumably as a result of the recent controversy surrounding its contracting. Why in the world would you display a trainer aircraft that represents — if nothing else — India’s complete inability to build even a basic airplane for its armed forces. It occurred to me then that that is probably precisely why the IAF has the PC-7 on the flightline. As a mocking jibe, perhaps, at HAL which will unveil a mockup (see photo) of its all-but-dead HTT-40 basic trainer concept. (Read update after my question to the IAF chief here).
The PC-7 is a fine aircraft, and the Indian government is already in the process of contracting for over 30 more aircraft, taking the total order to over 100 airplanes — the Swiss firm’s largest order by many units, ever. But is the IAF backing off support when HAL needs it most? Or is HAL trying to muscle its way in with a concept that just wont meet time and cost lines? Remember the IJT? The arrival of the PC-7 may solve a lot of training problems. Ironically, it also accentuates them. It should have been quietly training pilots in Dundigal. It doesn’t belong at Aero India.