IAF to phase out HPT-32 trainer aircraft by 2014

After losing two of its experienced fighter pilot instructors in a trainer aircraft crash in July, the IAF is all set to phase out such jets by 2014, Air Chief Marshal P V Naik said on Thursday.

"The IAF lost two experienced instructors in a fatal crash of HPT-32 this year. We have ordered an inquiry and a study on the aircraft, as we have had a lot of problems since their induction in 1984. We hope to use it only till 2013-14," Naik told reporters here.

HPT-32 or Hindustan Piston Trainer of HAL is IAF's primary aircraft for basic fighter pilot training. Two of IAF's instructors were killed in the mishap near Medak involving this aircraft on July 31 following which the aircraft was grounded leading to a crisis in training.

"I have ordered a special study by Air Vice Marshal Pradeep Singh, an experienced fighter pilot on the problems with HPT-32. Other agencies are also involved in the study," Naik said.

As an alternative, the Air Force chief said the rookie pilots were now being trained on another indigenous HAL aircraft, the Kirans.

"This experiment of training on Kirans has been quite successful. May be, for another year-and-a-half we will continue with this. I am sure by then, we will be able to find an alternative to HPT-32 to continue training unhindered," he added.

Naik said the IAF had already initiated a global "buy" option for about 70 to 80 trainer aircraft and another "make" option for a similar number of aircraft at the HAL.

"We have progressed considerably on the proposal and we will issue a global Request for Proposal for the trainers soon and we will go through it in two or three years. I hope we will be able to tide over the crisis till then," he said. Regarding the follow-on orders for Hawks Advanced Jet Trainers from the British aerospace major BAe Systems, Naik said there were differences of opinion between the vendor and the IAF over the price of the trainer aircraft.

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