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India’s long-delayed Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) program, spearheaded by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), might finally be taking flight. Sources close to the project have indicated to that production could be nearing reality after the IJT undergoes a significant redesign and upgrades.

The program is expected to complete all developmental trials following a major overhaul. This overhaul included a redesign of the IJT’s tail section and substantial upgrades to its avionics and other systems. These changes address concerns raised earlier regarding the aircraft’s performance.

The IJT program faced a three-year grounding from 2016 onwards until the redesigned IJT flew again in April 2019. A critical hurdle was the aircraft’s inability to perform six-turn spins in both directions, a requirement for safe pilot training. This limitation stemmed from issues related to the aircraft’s stall and spin characteristics, making it difficult for new pilots to handle.

The extensive modifications necessitate redoing all developmental trials, including validation of the new systems. That meant it required nearly 200 sorties that have to be performed in the last 5 years to ensure the aircraft performs as intended and meets all safety and performance benchmarks.

The successful development of the IJT is crucial for replacing India’s ageing fleet of Kiran Mk I and Mk II trainers. These trainers are nearing the end of their operational lifespan and are scheduled for retirement by 2025. The IJT aims to provide a modern and capable platform for training future generations of Indian Air Force pilots.

The IJT program has a long and winding history. If the redesigned version completes testing and enters production, it will mark a significant step forward for the indigenous development of advanced trainer aircraft in India. A modern IJT fleet will equip the Indian Air Force with the necessary tools to train its pilots for the future of aerial combat.

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