Ba­sic trainer air­craft: The facts

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By Air Mar­shal (Retd) Anil Cho­pra

The de­bate on whether the ba­sic trainer air­craft (BTA) for the In­dian Air Force (IAF) should be in­dige­nously de­vel­oped or pro­cured from abroad, hit a new high af­ter a re­port in the me­dia al­leg­ing that the IAF was try­ing to scut­tle the de­vel­op­ment of the BTA by Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Limited (HAL). The ar­ti­cle also pit­ted the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD), the IAF and HAL against each other. There is there­fore a need to put the is­sues in cor­rect per­spec­tive.

Ur­gent Re­quire­ment of Ba­sic Trainer

The IAF had ini­tially taken up a case for pro­cure­ment of 181 BTA as ‘Make, by HAL’. draft pre­lim­i­nary staff qual­i­ta­tive re­quire­ments (PSQRs) were pro­vided to HAL in Fe­bru­ary 2008. Af­ter dis­cus­sions be­tween the IAF and HAL, the PSQRs were mu­tu­ally agreed upon and is­sued in March 2009. A fa­tal ac­ci­dent of HPT-32 in May 2009 re­sulted in ground­ing of the HPT-32 fleet in July that year. This some­what sud­den de­vel­op­ment cre­ated an un­ac­cept­able void in ba­sic fly­ing train­ing that com­pelled the IAF to pro­pose pro­cure­ment of 75 BTA ur­gently from the global mar­ket. The bal­ance of 106 BTA were to be in­dige­nously de­signed, de­vel­oped and pro­duced by HAL as the In­dian aero­space ma­jor was not in­clined to li­cense-man­u­fac­ture the air­craft 75 of which were to be pro­cured from a se­lected for­eign ven­dor.

The Pro­cure­ment Process

As per the de­fence pro­cure­ment pro­ce­dure (DPP) in vogue, the Air Staff Qual­i­ta­tive Re­quire­ments (ASQRs) were pre­pared and rat­i­fied by the Ser­vice Equip­ment Pol­icy Com­mit­tee (SEPC) in Oc­to­ber 2009. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously the PSQRs is­sued to HAL ear­lier in March 2009 were also re­vised to align with the ASQR for BTA (Buy) and were reis­sued to HAL by De­cem­ber 2009. HAL sub­mit­ted its first draft pro­ject re­port (DPR) in Septem­ber 2010 based on the amended PSQRs. Thus, as on date, PSQRs and ASQRs are sim­i­lar, the ma­jor dif­fer­ence be­ing that PSQRs in­clude both ‘es­sen­tial’ and ‘de­sir­able’ pa­ram­e­ters whereas ASQRs in­clude only ‘es­sen­tial’ pa­ram­e­ters. PSQRs be­ing pre­lim­i­nary are pro­vi­sional and sub­ject to re­view/ change dur­ing the de­vel­op­ment process. The de­sir­able pa­ram­e­ters are based on fu­tur­is­tic/emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies whereas the es­sen­tial pa­ram­e­ters are to be of proven state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy avail­able in In­dia as also in the world mar­ket. The ASQRs can­not be re­viewed once the re­quest for pro­posal (RFP) is is­sued. The ASQRs are based on in­puts ob­tained through re­quest for in­for­ma­tion (RFI) so as to en­sure a multi-ven­dor sit­u­a­tion. The De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC) then ac­corded ac­cep­tance of ne­ces­sity (AON) for HAL in Fe­bru­ary 2010 to go ahead with the in­dige­nous de­sign and de­vel­op­ment of 106 BTA.

The RFP for BTA (Buy) was is­sued to 12 ven­dors of which nine re­sponded, two ven­dors were dis­qual­i­fied due to non-sub­mis­sion of In­tegrity Pact and in­com­plete pro­pos­als. Of the seven ven­dors

re­main­ing in the race, five cleared the tech­ni­cal eval­u­a­tion com­mit­tee (TEC) and three cleared the field eval­u­a­tion tri­als (FET) af­ter meet­ing with all ASQRs. This in­di­cates that the ASQRs were broad­based and were not for­mu­lated to favour any spe­cific ven­dor or prod­uct. The RFP for BTA re­ceived max­i­mum re­sponse gen­er­at­ing the largest com­pe­ti­tion in air­craft pro­cure­ment in re­cent his­tory. Pi­la­tus of Switzer­land emerged as the low­est bid­der (L1) out of the three at con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tion stage.

Staff Qual­i­ta­tive Re­quire­ments

Air HQ had not vi­su­alised the re­quire­ment of a zero-zero ejec­tion seat while draft­ing PSQRs. How­ever, HAL pro­posed to pro­vide such an ejec­tion seat and hence this was in­cluded in the PSQRs is­sued for the first time. When the ASQRs for the BTA (Buy) were be­ing for­mu­lated, it was ev­i­dent from the re­sponse to RFI that only two air­craft were avail­able in the world mar­ket with a zero-zero ejec­tion seat. This would have nar­rowed the com­pe­ti­tion to only two ven­dors. Fur­ther, a zero-zero ejec­tion seat is not an es­sen­tial re­quire­ment for a ba­sic trainer class of air­craft, which has very low take-off/land­ing speeds and dis­tances. Ac­cord­ingly, the ASQR merely stated, “The air­craft should be fit­ted with an ejec­tion seat.” This en­sured that more than seven ven­dors re­mained in the com­pe­ti­tion. The cur­rent PSQRs also stip­u­late that the air­craft should be fit­ted with an ejec­tion seat.

Pres­suri­sa­tion of the cock­pit for BTA, which has a ser­vice ceil­ing of six km, was never an IAF re­quire­ment. In their pre­lim­i­nary pro­ject re­port (PPR) on HTT-40 in Jan­uary 2008, HAL had stated that “The op­tion of cabin pres­suri­sa­tion will also be looked into dur­ing the de­tailed de­sign stage”. Ac­cord­ingly, ‘cock­pit pres­suri­sa­tion’ was in­cluded as a de­sir­able pa­ram­e­ter in the ear­lier PSQRs. Even the HTT-40 un­der the BTA (Make) does not have ‘Cock­pit Pres­suri­sa­tion’. The de­tailed pro­ject re­port (DPR) on HTT-40 sub­mit­ted by HAL in Septem­ber 2010 and ap­proved by DG (Ac­qui­si­tion), did not in­clude ‘cock­pit pres­suri­sa­tion’..

With re­gard to the ex­ter­nal vi­sion, both the ASQR and cur­rent PSQR have iden­ti­cal cri­te­ria. In the ear­lier PSQRs, the seat­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion was de­fined as tan­dem ar­range­ment and there­fore, it in­cluded the re­quire­ment for ex­ter­nal vi­sion from rear cock­pit of mi­nus eight de­grees. From the re­sponse to re­quest for in­for­ma­tion (RFI) it emerged that the world mar­ket had BTA with both ‘tan­dem’ and ‘side-by-side’ seat­ing. Ac­cord­ingly, the ASQRs stip­u­lated that “the ex­ter­nal vi­sion re­quire­ment should be in ac­cor­dance with the rel­e­vant spec­i­fi­ca­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, for a tan­dem seat­ing de­sign, the in­struc­tor’s cock­pit in the rear should be suf­fi­ciently raised to al­low safe flight in­struc­tion both by day and night.” The rear cock­pit of the PC-7 Mk II, is suf­fi­ciently raised to pro­vide a mi­nus 10 de­grees vi­sion over the air­craft nose. Both ASQRs and the cur­rent PSQRs spec­ify that “The air­craft should have a glide ra­tio bet­ter than 10:1”. The glide ra­tio of the PC-7 Mk II is in ex­cess of 12:1. This means that while glid­ing with engine failed, the air­craft will tra­verse two nm on the ground for ev­ery 1000 feet of de­scent.

Both ASQRs and the cur­rent PSQRs do not spec­ify any re­quire­ment for in-flight sim­u­la­tion. This re­quire­ment could be met with us­ing the fixed base full mis­sion sim­u­la­tor which was also be­ing ac­quired and hence this re­quire­ment of a sim­u­la­tion panel on the air­craft was omit­ted as a con­sid­ered de­ci­sion while fi­nal­is­ing ASQRs and the cur­rent PSQRs. Both the ASQRs and cur­rent PSQRs stip­u­late “the take­off dis­tance re­quired should be less than 1000 m”. The take­off dis­tance of the PC-7 Mk II is 259 me­tres at sea level. Sim­i­larly, the re­quire­ment of max­i­mum speed spec­i­fied is 450 kmph and that of the PC-7 Mk II is 555 kmph.

Fi­nan­cial Par­a­digms

As per the Pro­ject Re­port sub­mit­ted by HAL in May 2013, the pro­jected unit cost of the HTT-40 was at 2011 price level and did not in­clude a num­ber of ex­penses such as costs of de­sign and de­vel­op­ment, which IAF will need to pay up­front. Af­ter amor­tis­ing th­ese costs over 106 air­craft and ap­ply­ing the govern­ment ap­proved es­ca­la­tion rates, the ‘real’ unit cost of the HTT-40 for the ac­tual de­liv­ery pe­riod would be ` 59.31 crore in 2018 and ` 64.77 crore in 2020. As against this, the con­tracted unit cost of the PC-7 Mk II is 6.09 mil­lion Swiss Francs (`40.27 crore). This price of the PC-7 Mk Il is frozen un­der the ‘Op­tion Clause’ for de­liv­er­ies up to 2017. Hence, even at 2011price level, the HTT-40 is sub­stan­tially more ex­pen­sive than PC-7 Mk II. Un­like the HAL HTT-40, de­liv­er­ies of all 75 PC-7 Mk II would be com­pleted by 2015 and if the Op­tion Clause is ex­er­cised, 38 more PC-7 Mk II could be de­liv­ered by 2017 at the same price. Time frame for de­liv­ery by HAL of the in­dige­nous BTA re­mains un­cer­tain.

The draft PSQRs were pre­pared by thy IAF based on var­i­ous op­tions and in­puts pro­vided by HAL as the OEM for BTA (Make). The ASQRs for BTA (Buy) case were rat­i­fied by SEPC on Oc­to­ber 9, 2009, in ac­cor­dance with the DPP. The SEPC in­cluded rep­re­sen­ta­tives of MoD, DRDO, DGAQA, HQ IDS and Air HQ. The PSQRs for BTA (Make) were amended to align with the ASQRs for BTA (Buy). With re­gard to life-cy­cle costs (LCC), Pi­la­tus emerged as the low­est bid­der on the ba­sis of the to­tal cost of ac­qui­si­tion over 10,000 fly­ing hours or 30 years of life. The LCC has ac­tu­ally been es­ti­mated based on the com­mer­cial pro­posal sub­mit­ted by the ven­dor and not on spec­u­la­tive and ar­bi­trary as­sess­ments. The Pi­la­tus con­tract also in­cludes trans­fer of main­te­nance tech­nol­ogy (MToT). Once achieved, all sub­se­quent re­quire­ments for spares and ser­vic­ing/ over­haul would be sourced from HAL. Even a BTA (Make) would con­tinue to source a large num­ber of spares from abroad as ma­jor com­po­nents such as engine, pro­pel­ler, ejec­tion seat, avion­ics etc in the HTT-40 would be of for­eign ori­gin.

Fi­nal Word

The en­tire pro­cure­ment process is han­dled by the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) with sup­port of Air HQ. The IAF and the MoD have fol­lowed the de­fence pro­cure­ment pro­ce­dures metic­u­lously for both BTA (Buy) and BTA (Make) with full trans­parency and pro­bity. Any in­sin­u­a­tion of di­lu­tions of spec­i­fi­ca­tions to favour a par­tic­u­lar ven­dor or air­craft, is base­less and in­cor­rect.

Union Min­is­ter of State for De­fence Ji­ten­dra Singh in the cock­pit of Pi­la­tus PC-7 MK II trainer air­craft dur­ing the in­duc­tion cer­e­mony at Dundi­gal in Hyderabad

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