Delhi, 17 December 2002
year has come to pass without the AJT for the IAF and Navy being
ordered. No wonder it has now come to be called the 'Annual Joke
Trainer'. The Advanced Jet Trainer deal is the subject of
conversation in most Service and diplomatic functions and many
views are offered on why the deal with BAe for the Hawk-100, which
completed PNC stage with an Air Marshal in the chair had come to naught.
Defence Minister had said some months ago that it was only awaiting
Cabinet Clearance and then we saw some cold feet. There was no
official statement on the reason but the RM said new bids were
being considered. Since the deal is big, one does know that national
and local lobbies operate in every country. Lobbies try to consummate
such big deals and India has many examples, like the Bofors and HDW
deals, which still breathe in courts. UK's BAe offer of 22
fly-away and 44 to-build at HAL is not in favour for the
time being for some reasons, and suddenly after budgeting for
the AJT, it was reported in the media the price was too high.
Reports allude to cheaper Czech L-159 with the Honeywell US F-154
engine being a sudden favourite with some, and Putin could have put
the screws that Russia's MIG AT with French Engine, or the YAK 30
chosen by the Russian Air Force should be considered.
are speculations by IDC and so we share a professional analysis from
an Ex IAF pilot J Thomas who is now an analyst and in the aviation
industry. We value his opinion and the letters received
with his opinion are also tabled. These need to be to be viewed
as they bare some unclassified old correspondence of not so long ago
which discuss the AJT at policy level. We join in asking a
simple question why was the ambitious LCA project, which no
developing nation or a large Western nation except USA and Russia,
had attempted alone, taken up for design and manufacture, but never
the AJT which was much simpler. We understand that HAL had just
cleared the design for an IJT (Intermediate Jet Trainer), with the
Lazarac French engine for the IAF and claim that it could fly by
send us your inputs and do enlighten us if you have better analysis
or data on the AJT. Such healthy debate can only assist the defence
preparedness of our country, especially as the IAF has lost so many
young pilots and one of the reasons attributed is the lack of an AJT
to transit from Kirans to the MiGs.
on AJT from J Thomas as received:
came to know that the Advanced Jet Trainer [AJT] project was the
subject of yet another tussle. Air Headquarters has proposed that
the Czech L-159B be considered. It is considerably cheaper than the
Hawk. However, the Defence Ministry is in favour of the BAe Hawk,
provided the price can be negotiated downwards. Of course, there are
powerful lobbies on both sides.
lobbies ignore the national interest. It is utterly absurd that we
are trying to develop the Light Combat Aircraft [LCA] with
specifications well beyond the capability of the Indian aerospace
industry. And then we want to import the AJT which is well
within our capability! The only result is that we end up importing
both the AJT and the LCA.
far as the LCA is concerned, readers should note that it is far
inferior to the Mirage 2000, which entered service with IAF twenty
years ago. The LCA will cost twice as much as the Mirage 2000 and
the forex cost will be more than the total cost of the Mirage 2000.
And there is hardly anything indigenous about it not even the
paint. So the LCA fails on all counts no cost savings, no
forex saving, no development of indigenous industry, no indigenous
competence, no performance improvement.
aside, the biggest loss from the LCA project is that it has been
used as an excuse not to develop the AJT, which is well within our
capability. IAF has projected an initial buy of 66 aircraft.
However, there are further requirements including those of the
Indian Navy and for use in the strike role in certain situations.
The total requirement will be about 400 aircraft. At $10 million
each, that comes to $4 billion. It is surprising that
HAL has not pushed aggressively for this business and is instead
content with license manufacture.
I send some correspondence on the subject. In 199394, I was
assisting Mr Sudhir Sawant, MP with his parliamentary work and I did
my best to promote our aviation industry.
media generally assigns young, inexperienced journalists to cover
the aviation scene. That is another story.
PV Narasimha Rao was then holding the Defence portfolio himself. He
was well disposed to Shri Sudhir Sawant]
Major Sudhir Sawant, Member of Parliament [Lok Sabha]
Shri PV Narasimha Rao, Hon'ble Prime Minister of India
Shri Narasimha Raoji,
to my letter of 14th May 1993 regarding the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)
and other aviation projects.
press reports suggest that there is a proposal to import as many as
66 Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT) at a cost of about Rs 4,000 crores in
far back as September 1964, M/s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd had
designed and flown the Kiran basic jet trainer. The Kiran has since
been in quantity production and has given good service in the Indian
Air Force and the Indian Navy. The Kiran project has indeed been a
aviation industry has made progress during the past 29 years and it
is well within our capability to design and develop an Advanced Jet
Trainer (AJT). Undertaking an indigenous AJT project would do more
to develop our aerospace industry than the LCA project.
the Air Force's requirement for an AJT is urgent, it is suggested
that the first batch of about 10 to 15 aircraft may be imported.
Subsequent requirements may be met by indigenous development.
reply came from Shri Mallikarjun, MoS for Defence]
of State for Defence,
Shri Sudhir Sawant Ji,
refer to your letter dated 3.8.93 addressed to the Prime Minister
regarding the AJT project.
Indigenous design and development of an AJT by HAL was considered.
However, due to pre-occupation with the LCA and ALH, the HAL was
unable to take on this additional task in the time frame required by
the Air Force. The Kiran MK-II was also evaluated and it did not
meet the Air Staff Requirements (ASRs) of the IAF. It was only after
considering the two options that decision to explore the world
market was undertaken.
proposals from the two shortlisted vendors have been invited, which
includes, inter alia, an option for (under three options i.e.
outright purchase of flyaway aircraft, assembly from (CKD)
Completely Knocked Down Kits and licensed manufacture from raw
material). The eventual idea is to undertake the manufacture of the
AJT within India. Hence, irrespective of which aircraft is selected
for purchase/license manufacture, the indigenous aerospace industry
would ultimately be undertaking the production.
rebutted the arguments and wrote again]
Maj Sudhir Sawant, MP
Shri Mallikarjun, Hon'ble Minister of State for Defence, Govt of
you for your letter No.1089-S/RRM/93 of 13 Sep 93
The current requirement of AJT for Air Force is genuine and urgent.
However, we should keep in mind that the IAF will require an AJT for
the foreseeable future. This applies even 50 years from now. Within
the next 20 - 30 years, the IAF will need at least 200 - 300 AJT
aircraft. The current buy is therefore only a fraction of the total
It is true that at one time HAL was pre-occupied with the LCA and
ALH. However, the bulk of the design work for ALH has been
completed. As for the LCA, its projected performance is inferior to
that of the Mirage 2000 and Mig-29 and its unit cost will be several
times higher. Hence, it is not a serious or viable project.
With the present economic reforms and reduction in budgetary support
to PSUs, HAL has taken some initiatives towards better
utilisation of its resources. In these changed circumstances I feel
that HAL would be willing to undertake design, development and
manufacture of an AJT which we need for the next several decades.
With regard to para 3 of your letter what I had suggested is a
fourth alternative. We should buy in flyaway condition something
like 1015 aircraft to
meet the urgent needs of the IAF. The subsequent requirement of the
IAF and the Indian Navy should be met through indigenous design and
License manufacture of the AJT only involves technology of the
1960s. This is already available with HAL and would only be a
In view of the importance and urgency of the subject I request that
a discussion be arranged on the subject. From my side I shall bring
one or two aviation experts who would analyse the subject and offer
faced with arguments they cannot counter, our bureaucracy stall the
issue by not answering. Shri Mallikarjun went along.
I wrote to RN Sharma, then Chairman, HAL who was a colleague and a
friend. I had earlier discussed the matter with him. His response
was that HAL was quite willing to develop an AJT "but Air Force
has not asked us." It may be noted that he had publicly stated
that HAL was operating only at 10% capacity.
Wg Cdr Sharma,
our earlier discussion on the AJT project. We wrote to Hon'ble PM
suggesting that, while the first batch of 1015 aircraft may be
purchased from abroad to meet the IAF's urgent requirements,
subsequent aircraft should be designed, developed and manufactured
Reply from Hon'ble RRM is enclosed herewith. You will see that Govt.
is under the impression that HAL is unable to take on the task.
Copy of our further letter to Hon'ble RRM is enclosed. We
are confident that, under your able guidance, HAL can and
will take on the task of developing an AJT. We feel that the AJT
would be a viable project and will give a boost to the Indian
look forward to your views.
regards and best wishes,
Sudhir Sawant also wrote to Chairman, HAL
Wing Commander Sharma,
am happy to learn that Hindustan Aeronautics is likely to take up
the production of civil passenger aircraft. You will be doing yeomen
service to the nation.
wish you all success in the new venture. Please feel free to utilize
my services in promotion of projects at your end.
HAL did not reply to both letters.
this year I visited DEFEXPO in Delhi when the current Chairman HAL
happened to be present at the HAL stall. He was kind enough to
discuss the AJT with me. I reiterated the arguments given above
and said that the AJT project would be immensely profitable for
HAL and keep them going for many years. He agreed with me and
revealed that HAL was, on their own initiative, developing an AJT
and that he wanted to publicise it only after the prototype was
ready. He gave a target date of December 2002. Subsequently I came
to know that he was actually referring to the HJT-36, which is being
termed an Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT).