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SOURCE: ARJUN REDDY/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

IAF quest to replace aging Kiran MkII Trainer jet got a major boost in 1999 when Public-sector company HAL was sanctioned 2,989-crore project to develop Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) and a quick turnaround development circle and first flight in 2003 which was followed by the first flight of the second prototype in 2004 seemed like years of hard work on developing LCA-Tejas has finally created an talented resource pool in the country that was up for more challenges until 2007 and 2009 when both Prototypes suffered accidents and were grounded .

Troubled developmental phase not only included crashes but also several technical changes the program had to go through due to aircraft falling short of ASR issued by IAF. From Engine change to weight reduction followed up by wing re-alignments. Over the years, the program made little or very slow progress in the last few years and continued to fail crucial Spin Tests which HAL is still struggling with.

In 2014, British aerospace company, BAE was consulted by HAL on the program that had recommended deep design changes to the tail section and on the wings section of the aircraft which meant, full implementation of the list of recommendations could have almost resulted in a new design for the aircraft, which meant the whole program was back to square one. 5 years down the line, HAL is still continuing to fix issues with aircraft with little or no progress while IAF is set to bid farewell to the last batch of Kiran Mk II trainer jet which IJT was supposed to replace from 2019-20 on wards with its replacement no wear in sight.

The IJT programme is a perfect example of repeated mismanagement shown by its developer HAL and also perfect case to allow private sector players in Indian aerospace system to run the program so that more time and efforts didn’t be wasted on an organisation which clearly doesn’t have it in them to develop a successful trainer jet for the country. IAF and Defense ministry with fresh funds and with the transfer of all the technologies already available for HAL’s IJT program should restart the program as soon as possible with private players to develop an alternative aerospace system in the country.

Interested companies should be asked to submit their proposals and selected company should be given complete access to HAL’s IJT program so that the developmental circle and many key technologies which have been already developed in the program doesn’t go wasted. successful completion of the program will not only help boost the selected companies chances to emerge as a viable candidate for the production of future fighter jet program but also provide an alternative to HAL.

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