February 27, 2014
Saddled with obsolete training aircraft, the Indian air force (IAF) has decided to snub the long-delayed, indigenous HJT-36 Sitara intermediate jet trainer (IJT) and purchase new trainers from abroad.
The IAF has issued a request for information for a lightweight, single-engine, twin-seat trainer with a secondary light attack capability, an official at India’s ministry of defense says.
“We have asked the vendors to provide cost details for the direct purchase of IJTs for batch sizes of 10, 20, 30 and 50 aircraft,” he says.
The RFI comes weeks after Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony said the much-delayed Sitara IJT is likely to be operational this year. “All efforts are being made by the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. [HAL] for achieving the final operational clearance by December 2014,” Antony had said.
The IAF has been reluctant to exercise the option of buying an IJT since the state-run HAL has been developing a trainer for the force for the last 15 years.
“We are forced to take this decision as deadlines for getting the operational clearance for Sitara have been breached on a number of occasions,” the IAF official says.
The RFI for new a IJT states that the aircraft should be capable of operating from airfields at least 2000 meters above mean sea level (AMSL), with a goal of 3,000 meters. Submissions are due on April 4.
The official says the aircraft should be capable of carrying at least 1000 kg (2,200 lb.) of external load and be equipped with a minimum of five hard points, with each stressed to carry at least 300 kg.
“The aircraft should be capable of employing a lightweight gun-pod with adequate ammunition for at least five seconds of firing time [and] reusable rocket pods, and [should] be able to carry at least [four 250-kg bombs],” he says.