IAF awaits cabinet nod to buy Pilatus trainer

Bangalore : The Indian Air Force (IAF) is awaiting cabinet approval to buy the Swiss-made Pilatus PC-7 aircraft to train its rookie pilots, Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne said Friday.

“The deal to buy the basic trainer has been cleared by the finance ministry and will go to the cabinet for approval by next week. We hope to sign the contract by mid-December,” Browne told reporters here.

The Swiss-made Pilatus Aircraft Ltd was the lowest bidder among the three firms short-listed to supply 75 turbo trainers to the IAF at an estimated cost of Rs.2,900 crore ($580 million).

“If we sign the contract by mid-December, we should be in a position to start the first basic trainer course of in two years,” Browne said on the margins of a conference on aerospace medicine.

Korean Aerospace KT-1 and American Hawker-Beechcraft T-6C Texan-II were the other two bidders for the tender.

As the turboprop low-wing tandem-seat aircraft, Pilatus is capable of providing all basic training functions, including aerobatics, instrument, tactical and night flying.

The Swiss vendor has sold about 500 aircraft over the past three decades to about 20 air forces worldwide.

The air force has been facing shortage of basic trainer after its fleet of 125 HPT-32 Deepak aircraft of the state-run defence behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was grounded in July 2009 following several crashes and engine failures.

The air force also plans to send some of its young pilots to Switzerland for training till the delivery of initial batch of 12 aircraft commence in 2013.

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