Cri­sis pe­riod to be over with in­duc­tion of Pi­la­tus PC-7 MK-II

In an in­ter­view with SP’S M.A.I., Air Mar­shal Ra­jin­der Singh, AOC-IN-C, Train­ing Com­mand, In­dian Air Force (IAF), spoke about the train­ing pat­tern in the IAF and the sta­tus of the trainer air­craft. Ex­cerpts:

SP's MAI - - AEROSPACE -

SP’s M.A.I. (SP’s): What is your broad vi­sion of train­ing in the IAF? AOC-in-C: Keep­ing pace with the chang­ing times, we have taken gi­ant leaps in in­duct­ing ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy into the Air Force. Our main chal­lenge to­day is to de­velop the hu­man re­sources for ab­sorb­ing the tech­nol­ogy and pro­fi­ciently util­is­ing it as a weapon sys­tem to ac­com­plish the ob­jec­tives of the IAF. While fly­ing and ground train­ing forms the core cur­ricu­lum of train­ing, key re­sult ar­eas (KRAs) for this Com­mand also in­clude en­hanc­ing flight safety aware­ness, in­cul­cat­ing pride and sol­dierly at­tributes among all trainees and im­prov­ing the qual­ity of life of our air war­riors. SP’s: Can you please up­date our read­ers on the train­ing pat­tern be­ing fol­lowed now? AOC-in-C: We faced se­ri­ous cri­sis when HPT-32 air­craft had to be grounded for safety is­sues, in July 2009. The en­tire fly­ing train­ing pat­tern had to be mod­i­fied based on the train­ing needs vis-a-vis the re­sources avail­able. Op­ti­mi­sa­tion of fly­ing train­ing was un­der­taken in phases. Our first pri­or­ity was to en­sure ab ini­tio fly­ing train­ing con­tin­ued un­hin­dered, al­beit on jet air­craft, as against the IAF phi­los­o­phy of pro­pel­ler and jet com­bi­na­tion. To­wards this, the Qual­i­fied Fly­ing In­struc­tors Course (QFIC) held at the Fly­ing In­struc­tors School, Tam­baram was cur­tailed and all Ki­ran Mk-I air­craft were shifted to Air Force Academy and Air Force Sta­tion Hakim­pet for pre-com­mis­sion­ing train­ing. The syl­labus also had to be pruned down, es­pe­cially in ab ini­tio train­ing phase. Sub­se­quently, Ki­ran Mk-II air­craft of Surya Ki­ran Aer­o­batic Team (SKAT) were al­lot­ted to FIS for con­tin­u­a­tion of QFIC.

In or­der to main­tain the quan­tum of fly­ing for each trainee in the face of dwin­dling Ki­ran Mk-I as­sets, for the first time in July this year, we have bi­fur­cated the ab ini­tio fly­ing trainees in to fixed wing (jet train­ers) and rotary wing (he­li­copters), even be­fore a trainee com­mences fly­ing.

And now with the con­tract signed for in­duc­tion of 75 Pi­la­tus PC-7 Mk-II air­craft into the IAF, we will once again re­vert back to pro­pel­ler and jet air­craft com­bi­na­tion for pre-com­mis­sion­ing fly­ing train­ing and also en­hanc­ing the fly­ing train­ing syl­labus to orig­i­nal sta­tus, start­ing from July 2013. SP’s: What is the in­duc­tion plan for the Pi­la­tus PC-7 ba­sic trainer fleet? AOC-in-C: We are happy that the cri­sis pe­riod for fly­ing train­ing is go­ing to be over soon with the in­duc­tion of Pi­la­tus PC-7 Mk-II air­craft. Our pi­lots, engi­neer­ing of­fi­cers and tech­ni­cians are go­ing for train­ing to Switzer­land in Novem­ber this year, fol­low­ing which the air­craft is planned to be in­ducted at the Air Force Academy, Dundi­gal, Hy­der­abad, from Jan­uary next year. This air­craft is very ca­pa­ble and a proven trainer air­craft which is be­ing used for train­ing in many air forces around the world. We have al­ready com­menced in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment for in­duct­ing the air­craft and plan to un­der­take the fly­ing train­ing of ab ini­tio trainees on this new fleet start­ing from July 2013.

As re­gards the in­dige­nous equiv­a­lent of the ba­sic trainer air­craft (BTA), there is a pro­posal by the HAL to pro­vide equitable num­ber of air­craft with sim­i­lar air staff qual­ity re­quire­ments (ASQRs). The pro­duc­tion plans are at a nascent stage and the time­lines for in­duc­tion can­not be com­mented upon at the mo­ment. SP’s: What is the sta­tus of the Hawk ad­vanced jet trainer fleet? AOC-in-C: Sixty six Hawk air­craft have been in­ducted into the IAF till date to fill the void of ad­vanced jet train­ers (AJT), re­plac­ing the MiG-21s. Out of these, 24 were de­liv­ered by BAE Sys­tems and 42 have been de­liv­ered by HAL, last one be­ing handed over in June this year. The air­craft has, since its in­duc­tion in Fe­bru­ary 2008, trained many fighter pi­lots of the IAF in the art of com­bat fly­ing. It is a won­der­ful train­ing air­craft. How­ever, there were a few teething prob­lems ini­tially, most of which have been re­solved with time. Some re­main­ing is­sues are be­ing ad­dressed through reg­u­lar joint project re­view meet­ings with BAE and HAL. We have also placed an ad­di­tional or­der for 40 air­craft with the HAL, which will be lo­cated at Air Force Sta­tion Kalaikunda in West Ben­gal. SP’s: What are the plans for re­place­ment of the Ki­ran fleet? AOC-in-C: We are aware of the fact that the Ki­ran fleet is ag­ing and ac­cord­ingly plans for in­duc­tion of in­ter­me­di­ate jet trainer (IJT) air­craft from the HAL was ap­proved by the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) quite some time back. As per orig­i­nal sched­ule, this air­craft should have been fly­ing in the IAF by now. How­ever, due to cer­tain un­fore­seen de­lays in the de­sign and de­vel­op­ment of the project, the time­lines have slipped.

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