India has received the first two of 75 Swiss PC-7 Mk. II turboprop aircraft purchased to replace its vintage fleet of HPT-32 basic trainers.
Flown by Swiss pilots, the two aircraft were received at the Air Force Academy on Feb. 1 in Dundigal near the south Indian city of Hyderabad, a senior(IAF) official says.
Deliveries will take until August 2015. The IAF is likely to receive at least two aircraft every month, the IAF official says.
The IAF also has plans to acquire more Pilatus aircraft from the Swiss firm, the official says, while declining to provide further details.
The contract for 75 trainers, signed last May, is worth more than 500 million Swiss francs ($520 million). It also covers an integrated, ground-based training system and a comprehensive logistics support package.
Pilatus has entered into a separate offset contract with the Indian government tallying 30% of the trainer contract’s value in accordance with Indian defense procurement policy.
Pilatus also plans to establish in-country, depot-level maintenance capabilities, which includes the required transfer of technology to. (HAL) to enable 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.
“With the induction of the PC-7 Mk-II aircraft, the IAF will be able to meet the longstanding need of having a basic trainer aircraft,” the official says.
The air force has been scouting for a new basic trainer to replace the 1988-vintage, single-piston-engine HPT-32s, which were grounded in 2009 following a series of fatal crashes. The air force is currently training its young pilots on the Kiran Mark-II, an intermediate jet trainer.
The IAF has lost 33 combat jets and 12 helicopters in the past four years. Thirty-five defense officials, including 13 pilots, have lost their lives in these accidents.
The IAF is expected to begin training courses on the new turboprop aircraft starting in July, the IAF official says.
Pilatus photo: Pilatus Aircraft