Six months following the Indian Ministry of Defence’s contract signing with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the acquisition of 70 HTT-40 basic trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF), concerns are emerging due to delays in obtaining full airworthiness certification from the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC). This delay raises questions about the aircraft’s planned delivery schedule.
Sources within the government revealed that CEMILAC has granted provisional airworthiness compliance to the HTT-40 but with several “critical limitations.” To proceed with production, HAL must secure complete airworthiness certification, a process that is currently in progress.
CEMILAC, a regulatory body under the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), is responsible for certifying the airworthiness of military aircraft, helicopters, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), aero-engines, and other air-launched weapons, ensuring their flight safety.
In March of this year, the defence ministry inked a contract worth Rs 6,800 crore with HAL for the acquisition of 70 HTT-40 aircraft. The aim was to address a crucial gap in the availability of aircraft for initial pilot training.
Sources from HAL stated that the HTT-40 has already been certified against FAR 23 (Federal Aviation Regulation). However, it still awaits certification against the Air Staff Quality Requirements (ASQR) issued by the IAF. The draft “Release to Service Document” has been submitted to the Regional Centre of Military Airworthiness (RCMA), with clearance anticipated by October 2023, according to HAL sources.
These sources also noted that the HTT-40 remains on schedule. Major jigs and fixtures have been ordered, and material procurement activities are underway. The delivery of all aircraft is expected to span six years, with completion by 2029, although exact timeframes for the first and last deliveries are yet to be confirmed.
The shortage of trainer aircraft for IAF pilots became pronounced after the grounding of the HAL-made trainer aircraft HPT-32 around 2010. As an interim solution, the IAF acquired 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mk II planes from Switzerland in 2012 to address the critical pilot training shortfall. At the time, there was no indigenous basic trainer aircraft available, and the option to place an additional order for 38 aircraft was subsequently approved by the Defence Acquisition Council.