Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa who is in Russia on an official trip will be flying a Yakovlev YAK-130 Mitten Advanced Jet Trainer leading to wide-scale speculations of IAF hunting for Stage-II trainer aircraft for its Pilot training program. Russian aerospace group Irkut has been tight-lipped about it, but YAK-130 advanced jet trainer/light-attack aircraft has been on offer to India is not a secret and Russians have been pushing it’s trainer aircraft after HAL’s HJT-36 Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) program was delayed to due to technical reasons.

Even though HAL’s HJT-36 Sitara IJT was recently flown with a heavily modified tail section, yet it is still not certain that it will clear all it’s pending technical trials, Defence Ministry and IAF have pulled the plug on the program and have stopped funding of the program for a while now and HAL is using its own internal funds to fix the technical issues in the program for a while now. IAF meanwhile has been looking out for options available at the International market in case HAL is not able to fix all its issues said a senior air force official close to on this matter.

YAK-130 is not the only jet on offer to India, Argentina has offered India its baseline FMA IA-63 Pampa-III advanced jet trainer with combat capability to be used to develop an India specific trainer using both Argentinean and Indian technology and in fact state-owned FAdeA was the only country who had responded to IAF’s IJT Request for Information (RFI) floated few years back since no other jet was low tech to be categorized below AJT Hawk-132 already in service with India in Stage-III pilot training program.

YAK-130 is on par with Hawk-132 AJT which is already in service with IAF and in fact, is equipped with better higher thrust class engines and also comes with has better combat payload capacity . while it is not clear how it can be a Stage-II trainer in IAF when it has better performance then Stage-III trainer aircraft already in the service but IAF is also not committal on procurement of any trainer from abroad and has decided to support HAL’s SPORT trainer/attack variant based on the baseline Tejas Mk1 platform to be used as a Supersonic Lead-in fighter training (LIFT) after Stage-III training program.

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