Replying to Request For Information (RFI) issued by Indian Air force for an Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), US defense company Textron has offered Scorpion light attack aircraft which can double as a light attack aircraft .

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter who is expected to visit India will be making another attempt on IAF’s requirement and will be re-offering Us made tactical aircraft for sale during his two-day visit to the subcontinent in June under Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI).

What should be a concern to HAL is that Indian Airforce Chief Arup Raha has allegedly expressed interest in using the plane as an intermediate jet trainer due to repeated delays to the HAL HJT-36 Sitara jet trainer aircraft, currently being developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Scorpion jet designed as a low-cost strike/intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft is technologically more advance aircraft when it comes to meet requirements for Indian air force’s Stage-II Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) and at least on paper performance of the Scorpion jets exceeds performance of Hawk Mk.132 AJTs used by IAF in Stage-III of Pilot training .

How can an Aircraft which is superior to Stage-III aircraft of Pilot training program can be placed lower at Stage-II as Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) is a Puzzle only Indian air force can answer while offer or Interest does not always mean possible Point of sale, but it does raise question about Indian air force Priorities when it comes choosing Indigenous product over Imported offers.

Scorpion jets are powered by twin turbofan engines generating 8000lbs (35.5Kn) of thrust which are much more powerful than the Single engine powered Mk.132 AJTs. Scorpion is also much better aircraft to be used in light attack roles then Mk.132 AJTs.

Scorpion light attack aircraft have been developed for irregular warfare like border patrol, maritime surveillance , counter-narcotics , simple explanation could be its ideal aircraft to be operated in Combat Zone which don’t have credible air defense systems to pose a threat to the aircraft .

Intermediate Jet Trainer aircrafts used by IAF in its training program is not widely followed program, Many Advance air-force use Supersonic Lead-in fighter training (LIFT) aircrafts for Stage-III training and AJT in Stage-II or use Combination of Ground Simulators and Basic trainers which means not many aircrafts are designed as Intermediate Jet Trainers which lead to very few even responding to Request For Information (RFI) issued by IAF .

Fabrica Militar de Aviones (FMA) an Argentinian Company was another company which responded to IAF’s RFI and offered FMA IA 63 Pampa “Phase 3 aircrafts but aircraft offered is technically much more inferior to HJT-36 Sitara which has been developed by HAL and might have not interested by IAF .

HJT-36 Sitara is designed  keeping IAF’s requirements in mind for IJT role which is unique to IAF’s Pilot training program. Sitara doesn’t exceed performances of Mk.132 AJT but exceeds in performance to Basic Trainer Aircraft (BTA) like Pilatus PC- 7 Mk II aircrafts which are used in Stage-I.

It will be Interesting to see how IAF will utilize Scorpion aircrafts in its training program if it decides to buy them. Will it downgrade Mk.132 to be used as Stage-II aircraft and place Scorpion as Stage-III aircraft virtually killing of Indigenous HJT-36 Sitara aircraft or Eliminate Stage-II program and use Both Aircraft’s in as Stage-III aircrafts till Sitara is ready, but then Question will remain why Buy Scorpion aircrafts at the first place?

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Article by Vishal Asolkar,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or