Millennium Post

IAF to fly high again

The decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security to clear the way for the purchase of 75 trainer jets for Indian Air Force (IAF) must be applauded, though the decision had been pending for a few months. It’s been three years since the IAF had decided to ground its faulty fleet of trainers, the HPT-32 Deepak, which was involved in no less than 17 accidents that had killed 19 pilots. After countrywide hue and cry and a popular Bollywood blockbuster that focussed on the issue, the
government decided that it could not go on with the existing fleet.  

But since then IAF pilots were being trained on an ad hoc basis and often with advanced and intermediate trainer jets, which was proving to be difficult business. The crippling inadequacy could now be done away with, though the first trainer would be delivered only 15 months after the contract is signed, which means that the IAF has to continue with its reduced fleet for more than a year now.

The Swiss trainer Pilatus PC 7 MKII, 75 of which is to be delivered to the IAF at the cost of Rs 3,000 crore, however comes with a caveat: they cannot be armed. In other words, the Pilatus is to be used for training pilots only. That’s a fine condition as long as they do not prove to be inadequate as trainers like the fleet they are supposed to replace.

IAF has only 255 trainers, all inclusive, as against a requirement of 434. Part of the shortage of 181 is to be made up by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which has been contacted to produce 145 of these trainers under license. The rest could well be bought from the Swiss company, thereby increasing the initial number of 75.

It is really a matter of shame that IAF had to ground an entire fleet because of security concerns of the pilots. Now that the government is going ahead, after much deliberation, for a new fleet, it should ensure that those horrific incidents never happen and the strictest norms are maintained while training pilots. The lives of young, smart, aspiring professionals are entrusted with IAF and they should be careful custodian of those lives!
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