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IAF To Upgrade Its Fighter Pilots Training Programme

 From 2013 onwards, IAF will kick off a major upgrade in
its entire training programme for pilots who go on to fly
expensive top-notch fighter jets, transport aircraft and helicopters.

Better initiation into the intricacies of combat flying, inherently
dangerous in contrast to civil aviation, is critical for new pilots
since over 39% of the 1,010 crashes recorded by IAF since 1970 have been
attributed to “human error (aircrew)”.

Forced to drastically cut down the quantum of flying for pilots
to only 25 hours in Stage-I “basic” training for the last three to four
years due to acute shortage of trainer aircraft, IAF now plans to ramp
it up to 65 flying hours, with an additional 25 hours on advanced

This will be possible with fast-track induction of 75 Swiss Pilatus PC-7
basic trainer aircraft (BTA) under the Rs 2,900- crore deal inked last
month after a long delay. “The Swiss have promised to begin deliveries
by next January itself,” said a senior officer.

“So, we will begin the first course in July 2013 with the first 14
Pilatus trainers we get. Full-scale basic training of all new pilots on
Pilatus will begin from January, 2014,” he added.

Stage-II “intermediate” training on Kiran aircraft for fighter pilots
will involve 82 hours, while another 107 hours will be clocked in
Stage-III “advanced” training on Hawk AJTs (advanced jet trainers).

In effect, rookie pilots will then log 254 hours of actual flying, apart
from simulator training. It takes Rs 11 crore to train a single fighter
pilot, and around half that amount for a chopper or a transport

Training schedules of IAF, which inducts 240 new trainee pilots
annually, went haywire after the entire fleet of the 114 ageing
piston-engine HPT-32 aircraft, which long served as the BTA, was
grounded in August, 2009, after a crash killed the pilot.

IAF also has to get a replacement for the 80 virtually obsolete Kirans —
currently used for both Stage-I and Stage-II training — that can be
“stretched” only till 2015. By then, Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) will
have to deliver on its long-delayed project to manufacture 85 IJTs.


IAF will also need another 106 BTA to supplement the 75 Pilatus trainers
already ordered. HAL had promised to deliver the HTT-40 aircraft for
this, but the project is still stuck on the drawing board, leading some
to suggest the defence PSU should scrap it and concentrate fully on the
IJTs only.

India took two decades to ink the first contract for British Hawk AJTs
in March, 2004. Since then, IAF has inducted over 60 of the 123 AJTs
ordered for training at a combined overall project cost running into Rs
16,000 crore.