India to Upgrade Basic Trainers

By admin • May 18th, 2010

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India Defence Online, New Delhi — The Indian Air Force (IAF) has been in dire straits for a while due to the lack of a basic trainer aircraft in its fleet. The near obsolete HPT-32 trainers have lacked the technical capabilities of a reliable trainer aircraft. The HPT-32 trainers were grounded in July last year after a fatal accident that claimed the lives of two officers.

With no new trainer aircraft being acquired, the IAF has now resorted to other measures like a Parachute Recovery System (PRS) which will be incorporated in the trainer. As per the recommendations made by a committee headed by Air Vice Marshal Pradeep Singh, the IAF has given a go-ahead for a parachute recovery system (PRS) to be fitted on the HPT-32 trainer aircraft.

According to the IAF, the PRS implies that a parachute is being fitted on the trainer. During an airborne emergency, the pilot will pull a lever which in turn will deploy the parachute which will bring the trainer down safely. The IAF feels that the PRS will enhance survivability during an emergency in the air and prevent the trainer from crashing due to its freefall. The PRS will boost the morale of the pilots and enhance their confidence.

Since the IAF has no other basic trainer, the measures taken to revive the HPT-32 through the PRS seems inevitable. From the time that the HPT-32 has been grounded, the IAF is using the ‘Kiran’ Intermediate Jet Trainer for training. Although there is risk entailment in conducting basic training on a jet-engined aircraft like the Kiran Mark-1 aircraft, the IAF has little choice since it needs fighter pilots to graduate and fly the aircraft it possesses.

The PRS or the ballistic recovery system may seem a bit radical since the idea is to install an enormous parachute that opens when the engine shuts off, bringing down the aircraft slowly with the crew still in their seats. However, it remains to be seen whether the HPT-32 has the structural strength to handle the PRS.

Hindustan aeronautics Limited (HAL), which designed and manufactured the HPT-32 primary trainer, indicated that its airframe would have to undergo modifications. These would include strengthening to prevent the structure from shearing off when the parachute is deployed, and also to handle the extra weight. To ensure that that the aircraft comes down horizontally and not nose or tail first, trials must be undertaken.

It has been long established that the ‘Deepak’ HPT-32 has two major design flaws. When it flies upside-down the flow of fuel gets blocked, shutting the engine; and, since the Deepak cannot glide without engine power for even a short distance, a serious crash in inevitable

As for the Indian Defence Ministry, a fast-track purchase of 75 aircraft from the international market has been approved to replace the HPT-32 trainer aircraft but the aircraft will only come through by 2013-14 to the IAF.

source: india defence online

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