India and South Korea are expected to hold talks on purchase of jet trainers for the Indian Air Force during the visit of South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday.
“The visit of the South Korean leader is important for India from the perspective of defence and security,” sources told FE. Trainee aircraft ‘KT-1’ of Korean Aircraft Industries of South Korea could be considered for the Indian Air Force (IAF), as it was one of the shortlisted aircraft in 2011. The issue is likely to come up for discussion during delegation-level talks.
Growing opportunities in naval shipbuilding and port infrastructure in India will also be the part of the agenda.
The IAF, which is facing acute shortage of trainee aircraft, is exploring other options besides 75 PC-7 Turbo Trainers, manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland. These planes were purchased at `30 crore per aircraft.
According to the contract, there was a provision under which the IAF might buy another 38 PC-7 Turbo Trainers and the Swiss company is pushing for it. However, the IAF is wary of Pilatus as the company is under investigation for alleged corrupt practices.
At present, the IAF’s training fleet includes homegrown Kiran Mark I and II basic trainers and British company BAE Systems’ advanced Hawk trainers. An order has been placed with Hindustan Aeronautics for a minimum of HTT-40 trainers.
The Pilatus aircraft was picked through a two-year competitive process involving Korean Aircraft Industries (KAI) of South Korea, GROB Aircraft of Germany, EADS PZL of Poland, Hawker Beechcraft’s T-6C of the US, Alenia Aerammachi of Italy, Aerostar of Romania and Pilatus of Switzerland.The choice was eventually narrowed down to Korean Aircraft Industries KT-1, Hawker Beechcraft and Pilatus.
Trainer aircraft are planes used to teach cadets to fly when they join the air force. The IAF decided to purchase Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II after indigenous HTP-32 had been grounded due to repeated failures.
When the Manmohan Singh-led government had signed a `2,896-crore deal for 75 BTA with Pilatus Aircraft in May 2012, the competitors had red flagged the purchase. In 2016, the Ministry of Defence had started looking at the acquisition.