New Delhi: State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has unveiled the design of a new supersonic jet trainer that could play a critical role in modern combat aircraft training of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
A statement released by the HAL, ahead of the Aero India 2023 show in Bengaluru next week, said there would be a scale model of the HLFT-42, the ‘Next Gen Supersonic Trainer’.
HAL plans to equip the new trainer aircraft with modern avionics like Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA), Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite, Infrared Search and Track (IRST) with Fly by Wire (FBW) control system.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said this is a single engine trainer that has been in the works for a long time and underwent numerous design changes.
They also said the design of HLFT-42 is inspired from the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft programme. Sources added that the HAL was self-funding this project.
They said this aircraft could plug the gap between subsonic jet training — that takes place on Hawk-132 — and supersonic jet training — which takes place on an actual fighter like the MiG-21.
Sources also explained how training missions by new pilots who get used to supersonic flights makes aircraft like the MiGs and Sukhois undergo more wear and tear. But they also said the IAF will only be interested in the project when it sees HAL deliver on its new aircraft.
However, HAL sources point out that this project is very much doable and will turn out to be the shortest developmental schedule. They added that the new supersonic trainer also has immense export potential.
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New aircraft to replace Swiss-made Pilatus
In 2017, HAL and BAE Systems, which developed the Hawks, came together with a product called the Advanced Hawk.
The BAE Systems had then said that new features on the Hawks would reduce training demands on more expensive frontline aircraft, creating additional capacity for operational tasks, and make training more cost-effective as well as structured.
However, the IAF did not pursue this aircraft after it was found that the Advanced Hawk was not a supersonic jet.
The IAF had in October last year inked a Rs 6,800 crore deal with HAL for the purchase of 70 Hindustan Turbo Trainer (HTT)-40 trainer aircraft, a move that will reduce pressure on the force that is dealing with limited number of planes.
The HTT-40 was a project that was internally-funded by the HAL after the IAF initially refused to take part in it.
The new aircraft will be part of the first stage of training for the IAF pilots – basic training – and will eventually replace the Swiss-made Pilatus aircraft bought in 2012.
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