NEW DELHI — The maintenance contract for the Indian Air Force’s 75 PC-7 Turbo Trainers will not be extended, according to a Ministry of Defence official.
The aircraft, manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland and acquired in 2012, was under a maintenance deal that expired in December 2016.
“The follow-on guarantee of further 36 months beyond December 2016 is not being cleared by MoD on grounds of steep price,” the MoD official said.
The Swiss company was unavailable for comment, but an Indian Air Force official asserted that the Pilatus is not extending the contract because the MoD decided against buying additional PC-7 Turbo Trainers, “which were earlier agreed upon.”
“Due to no maintenance contract, IAF is using its own resources and resorting to buying parts from the local market to maintain the Pilatus fleet,” the Air Force official said.
The PC-7 trainers were purchased by the outgoing government despite opposition to the foreign purchase by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. HAL had wanted a contract for the HTT-40 basic trainer that it was developing.
But the National Democratic Alliance government, after coming to power in 2014, decided that the Air Force’s future needs would only be met the HTT-40, which is still under development and is likely to be certified in the coming year, potentially ensuring an end to the purchase of Pilatus turbo trainers. The MoD official said the HTT-40 is undergoing extensive trials and that airworthy certification is expected by 2018. The official also noted that it meets the criteria of the Make in India policy.
India’s current ruling government was critical of the Pilatus purchase when the deal was struck. But the Air Force itself had in 2012 rejected HAL’s HHT-40 trainer and favored the purchase of PC-7 Turbo Trainers.
“IAF is of the view that HTT-40 basic trainer aircraft would be more expensive than the imported PC-7 Turbo Trainer. In addition, IAF has told MoD that it [HTT-40] is overweight and overpriced,” the IAF official said.
However, HAL still managed to secure internal funds for its HTT-40 project, a senior HAL executive noted.
According to the IAF official, “there was a provision to buy additional PC-7 Turbo Trainers by IAF, which would have catered to provisioning of additional spares and warranty, etc., to cover the existing fleet. This would have the original equipment manufacturer to depute the representative and would have catered to ease of maintenance of existing fleet. However, this [additional purchase of PC-7s] has not happened.”
Currently, the Air Force’s training fleet includes homegrown Kiran Mark I and II basic trainers, totaling 150, plus 99 British Advanced Hawk trainers. The Pilatus strength is 75, and an order for the HTT-40 trainers is for at least 60.
“The MoD, under the current rule of the NDA government, is not likely [to] give support for [a] major contract for spares of Pilatus, and IAF has to maintain the fleet within the existing budget for the entire fleet,” the IAF official said.