An intermediate trainer jet progamme — to help rookie Indian Air Force pilots transition smoothly from basic trainers to advanced jet trainers — which was shelved six years ago after multiple failures is being revived again, and a new improved IJT will fly as early as April 2019, a senior official from the PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) said.
“The IJT project has been revived. The spin problem, which had grounded the aircraft, has been addressed. There will be a flight in April of an IJT,’’ Arup Chatterjee, HAL’s Director (Engineering and R&D), said on Thursday on the sidelines of Aero India 2019.
The IJT, also known as Hindustan Jet Trainer 36, is an aircraft indigenously designed and developed by HAL to replace its own Kiran jet trainers —- which were made from 1964 to 1989 and are now being retired from IAF service on account of their vintage.
“The IJT incorporates the simplicity necessary for ease of conversion from Basic Piston Trainer and the sophistication required for quick conversion to the complexities of an Advanced Jet Trainer,’’ HAL said while embarking on building the aircraft more than 15 years ago.
The development of the IJT has, however, been marked by stops and starts. The aircraft stalled in 2007 at the Aero India when it was being unveiled before the public. Subsequently, the project made progress with the successful integration of a Russian engine AL-55I and the IAF placing an initial order for 73 aircraft which could go to 200 after the aircraft completes over 280 flights.
An estimated Rs 6,180 crore worth of orders for the IJT were placed by the IAF when the aircraft reached the stage of limited series production of the first 12 aircraft for the IAF in 2009.
On April 28, 2011, an IJT prototype aircraft S-3466 developed problems during a routine flight test, resulting in a crash. Two test pilots on board managed to eject safely. Analysis of the mishap revealed a problem with the stall and spin capability of the aircraft.
With the problem never fully resolved, the IJT programme was shelved as HAL held consultations with foreign consultants including BAE Systems to iron out the problems.
In the absence of an intermediate jet trainer to help its pilots graduate from basic trainers to advanced jet trainers — the British Hawk 132 which entered the IAF in 2008 — the IAF has continued to rely on its stage two trainer, the ageing Kiran II aircraft, to train pilots.
HAL, which has also been building a basic trainer to replace its own obsolete HPT 32 trainers, has developed the HTT-40 or Hindustan Turboprop Trainer and is demonstrating it for the first time in public at Aero India 2019.
“The HTT-40 exceeds the preliminary services qualitative requirements on most fronts and offers a technologically advanced product than its competitor,” HAL’s engineering and R&D director said.
The development of the HTT-40 and the IJT are considered a symbol of HAL’s indigenous aircraft development capability alongside the LCA and a series of helicopters.