India has finally signed a contract to buy a fleet of 75 Swiss Pilatus PC-7 MK II turboprop aircraft to conduct initial training for its air force pilots.

The contract, which is worth more than 500 million Swiss francs ($520 million) also includes an integrated, ground-based training system and a comprehensive logistics support package.

“Delivery of the aircraft and the complete training system is scheduled to commence in [the] fourth quarter of 2012,” Pilatus says. “The contract also contains an option clause for extending the scope of this contract within three years from initial signature and we are optimistic that this will indeed be executed.”

“Under the deal, all the 75 PC-7s will be acquired in fly-away condition,” a senior Indian air force official says.

The Swiss aircraft participated in flight trials last year, along with Grob’s G-120 TP, Embraer’s EMB-312 Super Tucano, Finmeccanica’s M-311, Hawker Beechcraft’s T-6C Texan-II and Korean Aerospace’s KT-1. The T-6C and KT-1 were shortlisted along with the PC-7 before the Swiss offering emerged as the lowest bid.

In accordance with Indian defense procurement policy, Pilatus has entered into a separate offset contract with the Indian government representing 30% of the contract’s value. The Swiss firm will also establish in-country, depot-level maintenance capabilities, which includes the required transfer of technology to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), enabling in-country maintenance of the aircraft throughout its service life of more than 30 years.

The PC-7 is a low-wing, tandem-seat training aircraft, capable of all basic training functions including aerobatics, instrument, tactical and night flying.

The air force has been scouting for a new basic trainer. Pilatus’ aircraft will replace the 1988-vintage, single-piston-engine HPT-32s, which were grounded in 2009 following a series of crashes that killed several pilots and trainees.

The air force is currently training its young pilots on the Kiran Mark-II, an intermediate jet trainer.

Korean Aerospace has alleged that the defense ministry selected the Swiss aircraft even though its application was incomplete and not in accordance with defense procurement procedures.

The contract will extend the fleet of Pilatus turboprop trainers to more than 900 aircraft operating worldwide.