NEW DELHI – The Indian Air Force (IAF) has still not been able to convince the finance ministry about the long-term costs of 75 basic trainers it plans to buy from Swiss company Pilatus as Defense Minister A.K. Antony accepted there were issues with the deals that needed to be sorted out.
The signing of the crucial contract has been delayed as it failed to get the nod from the cabinet committee on security despite IAF Chief NAK Browne expressing confidence that the deal had almost been finalised.
Antony has attributed the delay to the various stages of the procurement process and claimed he wanted to avoid any controversy in the future. The IAF is in dire need of trainer jets but the initial agreement is now being held up
At least five meetings of the cabinet committee on security have been held but the deal was discussed in none. It has been eight months since the Pilatus P-7 trainer was picked as the lowest bidder, beating KT-1 of Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Hawker Beechcraft's T-6C, but the deal is still not in sight.
The IAF has projected it as an emergency purchase as it does not have adequate basic flying trainers for rookie pilots. They are being trained on the Kiran jet aircraft, putting their lives at risk.
Senior IAF officials have claimed the current training programme was not the ideal way to train pilots. The government will have to pay an estimated $1 billion for the 75 aircraft.
The deal has been stuck because it failed to factor in the cost of the follow-on aftersale support and transfer of technology. It was claimed the transfer of technology cost would be worked out separately with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the Indian partner in the contract.
The delay in signing the contract will have an impact on the delivery of the aircraft. According to the schedule worked out, at least 12 aircraft ought to be delivered within two years of signing of the contract.
The process has also been muddled by the fact that KAI has raised objections. To make matters worse, two MPs have also written letters highlighting the deficiencies in the proposed contract.