According to Indian media reports, State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has responded to Request for Information (RFI) floated by the US Navy (USN) as part of its new Undergraduate Jet Training System (UJTS) program, in search of a new jet trainer to replace its Boeing T-45 Goshawk fleet. HAL has offered its Lead-in Fighter Trainer (LIFT) version based on its LCA-Navy Twin Seater Mk1 aircraft that could be the only aircraft in the competition that has demonstrated carrier-based takeoff and landings, but upon close inspection of UJTS tender documents which has gone through, it reveals some interesting facts that might make LCA-Navy LIFT least likely to win.

The US Navy wants a non-developmental, land-based jet trainer capable of field carrier landing practice and nuclear aircraft carrier touch-and-go landings by 2028 or sooner, basically, it means it wants trainer aircraft to perform carrier touch-and-go landings not arrested landings or catapult launches that are performed by its current T-45 fleet, which conducts carrier landings and launches.

The US Navy also wants Precision Landing Mode, which is used to help land the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet on aircraft carriers. It also wants the trainer to have an automatic ground collision avoidance system. Each trainer is expected to fly 400h per year, which translates into each trainer performing 45 carrier touch-and-go landings per year. The aircraft should have an operational ceiling of 41,000ft, and be capable of speeds greater than 600kt (1,110km/h).

LCA-Navy LIFT offered to the United States Navy meets all the technical requirements set under the UJTS program, but Likely competitors in the UJTS program will include the Boeing-Saab T-7A, which won the US Air Force’s T-X competition; Lockheed Martin’s T-50A, based on the FA-50 light-attack/trainer developed with Korea Aerospace Industries; and Leonardo’s T-100, based on the company’s M-346, that might be lower on cost per unit and US Navy might go for Boeing-Saab T-7A which is riding on huge order for 350 aircraft that has been placed by the USAF recently.

The US Navy’s T-45 Trainer jet is based on British Aerospace Hawk sub-sonic Trainer aircraft developed in the ’70s. While T-45 can land and take off from Nuclear aircraft carriers, Present UJTS tender documents specifically don’t ask for such capabilities as such but only that it is capable of performing carrier touch-and-go landings, which technically all the aircraft in the competition could be able to do after carrying out required hardening of its undercarriage and rear fuselages.

To pull this miracle and win a contract for 200 aircraft from the US Navy, HAL will need to not only price it better than its competition but also convince the customer that extra investment on LCA-Navy LIFT will offer a great advantage to its trainer program since it can perform actual landing and takeoffs. Tie-up with a local American aerospace company could have been beneficial to act as a manufacturing partner in case if it wins since HAL doesn’t have a good record to pitch when it comes to the production of aircraft quality and delivery schedule.

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