The U.S. Navy has issued a Request for Information (RFI) on May 14 for its Undergraduate Jet Training System (UJTS) program to procure a new jet trainer aircraft to replace its current fleet on 194 T-45 Goshawk aircraft. About the programme, US Navy is seeking a non-developmental (existing) land-based jet trainer aircraft design that is capable of performing Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) events and Carrier touch-and-go events, and the corresponding effects of these high sink rate landings. The Navy doesn’t want its new trainer jet to land and take off from the aircraft carrier, i.e., no arrestment or catapult launches. The current T-45 fleet is able to conduct carrier landings and launches.

The USN wants a two-pilot aircraft with ejection seats. The jet should be able to be flown from either cockpit. Each example of the next-generation trainer is expected to fly 400h per year. The USN wants to conduct field carrier landing practices at an annual rate of 1,200 per aircraft. It also wants each trainer to perform carrier touch-and-go landings 45 times per year. The service ceiling of the aircraft should be 41,000 ft.

The prime contenders for that are supposed to take part in the competition are Boeing-Saab T-7A, which won the US Air Force’s T-X competition; Lockheed Martin’s T-50A with Korea Aerospace Industries and the Italian Leonardo’s T-100. However, none of these aircraft have been tested on an Aircraft Carrier.

HAL can change this situation; I have four reasons to support my argument. Firstly, the HAL LCA Tejas is the only new single engine 4th generation aircraft that has demonstrated it is capable of operating on an aircraft carrier, this gives NLCA Tejas a very strong edge against the other aircraft in the race.

Secondly, US Armed forces purchasing a foreign origin aircraft is not a new thing. The USAF recently selected the American-Swedish T-7 for Training Role. So, If an Indian Jet is selected, I suppose it won’t open a pandora’s box as this is an ongoing practice. Also, the NLCA uses the GE F404 American engine which is the same as the F/A-18 Hornet and similar to that of the F/A-18 Super Hornet fleet, thus making the maintenance easier, all while the F404-IN20 provides more thrust than F404-102 (78.7 kN) and F404-103 (76.0 kN) used on the T-50 and T-7 respectively.

Thirdly, HAL already has partnership with Boeing India to manufacture F/A-18 Super Hornet in future for the IAF and Indian Navy. HAL can again partner up with Boeing for this new contract. Boeing and SAAB’s T-7 won the T-X Programme, but I believe the T-7 would not be a strong contender for US Navy because of limited Naval experience and historically USAF and USN have operated different trainer aircraft because if their different needs. Boeing will have a much stronger chance of winning if it partners with HAL instead of SAAB

Lastly,converting an air force aircraft to naval requirement is easier said than done, as this can be avoided by going with NLCA, HAL NLCA NP1 and NP2 had demonstrated their capability in January of this year. It fits all the technical parameters and is one of the safest aircraft programmes out there.

HAL has been aspiring to make its presence felt in the global market, and what better way to do so than entering the UJTS program. I am an optimist and a firm believer that HAL becoming a global firm is no longer a distant dream but a reality just inches away from its grasp, all it needs is an opportunity and supportive leadership that ceases that opportunity.

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