Defmin Parrikar’s decisive push for the indigenous HTT-40 as basic trainer — MOD ordering over 70 of this aircraft before a prototype is up and flying, is a good thing alright, but also demolishes IAF’s plan for a two (foreign) aircraft training regime — the norm of most modern air forces the world over. This plan involved the Swiss Pilatus PC-7 as basic trainer-cum-its upgraded variants Mk-II/PC-21 for the intermediate stage (where pilots are trained to pull out of a spin, etc) and the ex-British, HAL assembled, Hawk as the jet trainer before transitioning the entrant-level pilots to advance training in specific aircraft (MiG-21 bis, MiG-29, Jaguar, Su-30, Mirage 2000) at the squadron level. This would have made sense if IAF, at the time of securing Pilatus, had chosen the more sophisticated Mk-II/PC-21 version that’d have done duty in both the basic and intermediate trainer flying stages. Instead IAF, as is its wont, thinking short-term (to get MOD’s approval for the Pilatus buy) plonked (in “Charlie” Browne’s time as CAS) for some 70-odd of the cheaper PC-7 turboprops, in the expectation that MOD would be stampeded in time into OKing the purchase of an additional 100, higher priced, Mk-IIs/PC-21s. The Parrikar decision apparently nixes this latter option. The question then is can IAF do with just HTT-40 and Hawk as the two trainer aircraft — one turbo-prop, the other jet?
HAL/ADA should have long ago gotten into the business of designing, developing, and producing a successor to the HPT-32 Deepak and HJT-16 Kiran 1, 1A, and Mk-II jet trainers, with over 118, 72, and 61 respectively in service. The question is why did this NOT happen? Well, we know the answer, because IAF preferred Western aircraft for all stages of pilot training. Hence, the Deepak HPT-32 and Kiran Mk-II with a Bristol-Siddely Orpheus jet engine that originally powered the license-produced Gnat never had follow-on Indian aircraft, with IAF actively discouraging the development of indigenous turboprop and jet successors, leaving GOI with no alternative other than to import first the Hawk and later the Pilatus.
This is an old, tested, and proven IAF tactic of preempting development and production of indigenously designed aircraft, shouting and screaming publicly about “voids” and otherwise scaring the govt of the day into permitting buys from abroad. Politicians have been complicit in this game to make the IAF and the military generally dependent on external suppliers. Parrikar has sought change. He is trying to temper IAF’s antipathy by insisting that IAF make-do with HTT-40/Pilatus PC-7 and the Hawk, and that there aren’t enough resources for Mk-II/PC-21 in this scheme of things. And to make HTT-40 financially viable, is driving a weaponised version of it for use in COIN ops and for export.
A whole generation of IAF pilots, in the Russian mode, trained in HPT-32s and Kirans before joining squadron service and becoming familiar with combat aircraft.