New Delhi: It`s an aircraft that many senior Indian Air Force (IAF) officers cut their teeth on but a spate of crashes has finally forced the retirement of the single piston-engined HPT-32 trainers.
The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, told India Strategic defence magazine that the IAF was undergoing a major transformation by inducting hi-tech systems and, while it was all for supporting indigenous industry, the HPT-32 has had a record of accidents which did not inspire confidence.
There has been a persistent problem with the fuel supply system that had not been sorted out, leading to 108 engine cuts and mishaps, claiming the lives of 23 pilots.
The HPT-32, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), was grounded after a crash July 31, 2009 in which two senior pilots, both instructors, were killed.
The aircraft first flew in 1981, and was delivered to the IAF Training Command in 1984 for training in basic flying. Notably, many of the top IAF officers have trained on the HPT-32. But there seems to be a unanimous opinion that it is time for a change.
As a replacement, the IAF has decided to acquire the Swiss-made Pilatus-7 aircraft.
India Strategic quoted the air chief as saying that the formal agreement to buy 75 of these aircraft would be signed within a few weeks as the negotiations were in the final stages between the government and the manufacturer.