Indian Air force asks Hindustan Aeronautics to stop work on jet trainer Sitara
To make a perfect combat pilot the role of Trainers is very much in terms of Training in three different stages, form Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Trainers version, IAF uses Foreign Trainers to train the IAF combat pilots, for basic the swish made Pilatus PC 7 and the Advanced stages the BAE Hawk used, but the cap between Basic to Advanced couldn't filled up, while IAF and the Defense Ministry asked HAL to produce a Intermediate Jet Trainer, it's not a new Project. the Project officially started in early 1997.
HAL developed a advanced Basic Trainer named Kiran, which is very good for Training IAF and Indian Navy Pilots, but it's early 1970's, because of the successful Kiran's, the Ministry and Air force selects the HAL to produces a Intermediate Trainer to fill the cap between Basic and Advanced Trainer. but the program faced delayed and problems, even crashes and malfunctions in prototype variants.
the First prototype flown early March 2003, and within a year another one prototype flown, with the program sanctioned in 1997, within six years HAL flies the prototype, but when IAF evaluation team inspects the Trainer, they found the engine is not good enough to power the Trainer to perform some training methods, the first two prototypes comes with French made SNECMA Turbomeca Turbo fan with the power output of 14.1 kN of thrust,
So the program shelved, and HAL analyses for some other engines, but HAL keeps the Prototypes for various flight testings to check the Performance of the aerodynamic design and onboard systems, due to the Nuclear test there is a major set back of the program, while some foreigners stopped the support of the Aircraft developments, the HAL sitting in ducks to waiting for a good turbofan engines to power the IJT,
After delays, HAL found the Russian supplier NPO Satrun to supply the slight over powered AL 55 Turbofan with 16.9 kN of thrust, the contract signed with full transfer of technology and local production of the engine. the contracts and agreements signed in late 2005, with the supply of engines within 18 months of the contract.
meantime HAL still uses the older sneccma engines to test the First two prototypes, unfortunately in the Aero India 2007 event, the HAL Sitara all set to take off from the Yelenkha Air force Base, however suddenly the aircrafts canopy flown off from the Aircraft, and the Trainer pilots tries to hold the Jet which is running on the lawn, when he tries the Jet back to the Runway the Tires bursts and tilt, which makes a huge setback in the program, but the problem was identified and the Aircraft also repaired and back to routine services,
Again in 2009, the second prototype also crashed , after the training mission the Trainer and instructor set to land in Yelenkha AFB, but this time the retractable wheels didn't not opened thus makes the pilots to force land with the Aircraft body. creating structural damages into the airframe and damages one of the wing. with the repeated crashes the HAL grounds the Sitara Fleet for further investigations and reasons which causes the problems.
while the Contracted Russian engines comes late by two years, and the HAL crews installs the Russian Engine on the first prototype which was crashed earlier but repaired, and HAL rolls out the first Sitara with Satrun AL 55 by may 2009, with the successful first flight,
The IAF was very happy about the Aircraft's performance with the new engines, without any more delays IAF ordered first batch of 12 Aircraft's in IOC configuration and called as Limited series production, HAL promised that they will delivered those Trainers within the end of 2009, even before the deliveries IAF again ordered another 73 Aircraft's in FOC standard, where HAL says the Sitara achieves it's FOC by 2012 , makes the order numbers increased to 85, and IAF has an requirement of more than 200 such IJT trainers,
However the program hits delays, makes it zero production of LSP and Series Production variants, the HAL says the Program hits delays, and they will start deliver the aircraft by 2013, However again they failed to meet the preset timeline, till the end of 2014 IAF didn't received any Sitara's from HAL.
In early 2014, when the government addressed about the Sitara program delay, The statement said "the development of IJT is in the advanced stages of certification with more than 800 test flights completed so far. The activities are progressing well with completion of sea level trials, night flying trials, high altitude trials as well as weapon and drop tank trials. The activities left for obtaining Final Operational Clearance (FOC) are the refinement of stall characteristics and spin testing which will be commenced as soon as stall characteristics are refined.All efforts are being made to achieve FOC by December 2014. Production of aircraft will commence immediately.
But days are passed still no Sitara's are delivered to the IAF, makes the IAF to re look alternate options to procure much needed Intermediate Jet trainers from foreign suppliers, and recently the Indian Air Force has asked the state-owned firm HAL to stop its efforts to produce the Intermediate Jet Trainers (IJT). the government spend some $100 millions to develop the IJT in HAL,and in the 17 years HAL comes with two prototypes for that money.
Meanwhile, with the customer not willing to wait for the IJT, the ministry of defence has already floated an expression of interest (EoI) seeking information from global firms to procure intermediate jet trainers. The EoIs have been sent to Russia’s Yakovlev, Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, Korea Aerospace Industries of South Korea; Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Beechcraft of the US; and Saab of Sweden.