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Subsonic intermediate jet trainer aircraft designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) flew for the first time exactly 20 years ago in 2003 but it has still not entered into production. HJT-36 Sitara which was to replace ageing Kiran Stage-II Trainer aircraft in the Indian Air Force (IAF) nearly a decade ago is nowhere close to entering production and frankly, no one cares about the program anymore as focus and training doctrine in the last few decades has changed and shift now is clearly to have a supersonic jet trainer and days of sub-sonic trainer jets are more or less over.

HAL Claims HLFT-42 is the ‘Next Gen Supersonic Trainer’ that is under development and the plan is to equip it with modern avionics like Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA), Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite, Infrared Search and Track (IRST) with Fly by Wire (FBW) control system.

HAL doesn’t want to repeat the fiasco of the HJT-36 for the HLFT-42 program and is going for the tried and tested design of the HF-24 fighter jet that flew in the early 60s and was in service with IAF till the mid-’80s. HF-24 was a stable Mach 2 capable design even though it never went supersonic due to underpowered engines.

HLFT-42 seems to have borrowed the mid-fuselage section along with wings from the HF-24 program and mated it with the front fuselage section from the Tejas Mk1 program to maintain commonality and to reduce overhaul cost of validating design in repeated wind tunnel testing.

HAL is following tried and tested formula that it has borrowed from the HTT-40 (Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40) program that was designed after carefully studying flaws of the HPT-32 Deepak and reworking its design instead of going for a clean slate design.

HLFT-42 can repeat the successful formula of the HTT-40 program but will it be successful it only decided how the program is executed and the timeframe required from the first flight to clearance of final airworthy certifications.

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Article by SATYAJEET KUMAR ,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or