Indian Air Force will induct indigenous HTT 40 basic trainers in “large numbers”, which will boost the domestic capability although it was earlier keen for a Swiss aircraft.
The country was looking at having a fighter aircraft under ‘Make in India’ initiative which will be a “big ticket project”, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Raha said at a seminar on Thursday.
Talking about the opportunities in the aviation sector, especially for domestic companies, he said, “IAF will induct HTT 40 basic trainers in large numbers soon”.
Defence sources said the IAF has committed to purchasing at least 70 of these aircraft.
The Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40 (HTT-40) had on May 31 made its maiden flight after much delay.
The aircraft, the prototype of which was rolled out in January, is aimed at being used for the first stage training of all flying cadets of the three services.
While the HTT-40 programme was almost junked during UPA rule, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar pursued both IAF and HAL to ensure development of the trainer.
IAF had blocked funding for the HTT-40 by telling the Defence Ministry that the aircraft would be “too expensive, heavy and that it will not meet their need”.
IAF had backed a Swiss trainer, the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II.
The Air Force had purchased 75 of Pilatus in 2012 under a controversial deal but the requirement was for over 106 more planes.
Parrikar had cut this down and cleared a plan to purchase another 38 of Pilatus aircraft. However, the contract is still stuck on pricing issues.
Raha also said maintenance and rehaul facilities of aircraft and its engines is still in infancy in India and it needs to grow. He said the private sector should get into it.
The IAF chief reminded those present at the seminar that there is a lot of opportunities because of the legacy of aircraft that the force operates.