Wednesday, 3 February 2016

HTT-40 rolls out: Fully built HAL trainer aircraft readies to fly

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 3rd Feb 2016

In an important milestone for Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), its new basic trainer aircraft, the Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40 (HTT-40) rolled out for the first time from the hangar where it was built and began preparations for its first flight, later this month.

For years, the Indian Air Force (IAF) flatly opposed the HTT-40 project, demanding the defence ministry scrap it. In its place, the IAF wanted to import over a hundred new trainers from Swiss company, Pilatus, to supplement the 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mark II trainers it had already bought.

The IAF repeatedly told the ministry the HTT-40 would be over-weight, over-priced and under-performing. But HAL doggedly continued development, committing more than Rs 350 crore of company funds.

Given this history, there was jubilation amongst the HTT-40 design team as their first prototype, fully designed in India, rolled out of the hangar with all its lights flashing and its cockpit powered on. “The project has managed to steer through the initial headwinds and now is going full throttle,” said T Suvarna Raju, the HAL chief.

An HAL media release on Tuesday noted: “The team composition of HTT-40 is the youngest ever on any prototype program in HAL.”

The IAF, now convinced about the HTT-40’s viability, wants to take charge of the project. However HAL, in a demonstration of confidence, insists on funding and controlling the project until the trainer takes to the skies.

After that, the HTT-40 will be overseen by an “integrated project management team” (IPMT), headed by Air Marshal Rajesh Kumar, who attended the rollout.

Before actually flying, the HTT-40 will undergo a series of ground tests. First, US firm Honeywell, which has supplied the TPE-331-12B engine, will verify it is properly integrated with the airframe.

After that, the HTT-40 will do low-speed taxi runs, and then high-speed taxi runs. In the latter, it will speed down the runway, coming close to lift-off, but remaining on the ground. Only after all systems are proven on the ground, will inspectors allow the aircraft to actually lift off.

If all goes according to plan, the HTT-40 will complete its flight test programme in two years, and be inducted into the IAF from 2018. HAL tells Business Standard that the HTT-40 production line will build two trainers in 2018, eight in 2019, and reach its capacity of 20 per year from 2020 onwards.

Some 70 HTT-40 trainers will join the fleet, supplementing the 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mark II already in service; and another 38, whose purchase is currently being negotiated.

HAL is looking beyond the IAF, at exporting the HTT-40 to air forces across the region. The designers say it can be developed into a capable ground attack aircraft that would be ideal for countries like Afghanistan, which need to provide air support to their ground troops, but cannot afford full-fledged fighters.

“There are plans to weaponize and optimize HTT-40 aircraft”, said Suvarna Raju. HAL says: “Its role includes basic flying training, aerobatics, instrument flying, navigation, night flying, close formation etc.”

The PC-7 Mark II and HTT-40, both propeller-driven turbo-prop aircraft, will be used for Stage-1 training of rookie IAF pilots. While Stage-2 training is currently being done on the HAL-built Kiran Mark II, it could shift to the new Sitara intermediate jet trainer (IJT), which HAL is now completing after long delays. Finally, budding fighter pilots will do their Stage-3 training on the Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT), which HAL builds under licence from BAE Systems.


Anonymous said...

Good work by HAL.

Anonymous said...

Good start by HAL.HAl needs to,complete certification quickly too, before handing it over to Air Force.

Anonymous said...

"US firm Honeywell, which has supplied the TPE-331-12B engine, will verify it is properly integrated with the airframe."
Another 'glorious' airframe from HAL flying on an imported engine. And this one is a 'turboprop'! Please shut down HAL & GTRE, sell their Officer's Quarters to Real Estate developers, open their labs and testing facilities to private enterprises. India has a better chance of success with private Indian entities taking a shot at aerospace R&D.

Raahul Kumar said...

The HTT-40 is impressive work, but what happens to all those Pilatus orders? Can the IAF sell these planes to another country? Also in regards to the Honeywell engine, is there any effort on to produce an indigenous variant?

Anonymous said...

There is no point in maintaining dual inventory, the PC-7 should be sold off as the long time maintenance cost of the aircraft will be exorbitant. The production capacity of the HTT-40 must be at least 40 aircraft. When will the 24 KN indigenous turbo prop engine go on the aircraft. The aircraft has good potential as an anti insurgency aircraft besides being a BTA and should find many takers.

Unknown said...

Whoa whoa... Slow down champion. It's just rolled out. Talk about serial production and exports later. First, it need to fly and fly well enough to satisfy training requirements. HAL Deepak was grounded because it was unsafe to fly due to mid-flight engine shut down. Who knows how well (or unwell) this one will behave? If one has to go by HAL track record, this plane will not fly in IAF colors for at least 8-10 years. So before blaming PC-7, wait and watch.

Anonymous said...

It is time that HAL behave like an independent corporate entity. They should have confidence and capability to chart out their own course and make products for an international market and not be IAF centric in their thinking and strategy. The IAF must only incidentally be one of their many customers. That is true 'make in India'.

Anonymous said...

they better do it fast..

Anonymous said...

Report on HAL in The Hindu. Sir, how long would you keep praising this inefficient PSU.

Abhiman said...

Good to see another tight slap on the IAF's face. May the HTT-40 fly with flying colours.

If the IAF still dilly-dallies upon its completion, the HTT-40 can surely find a good export market abroad.

Rahul Singh said...

Among many 'Broadsword' is also one to be congratulated on roll-out of first HTT-40 prototype. Congrats Broadsword! Your work has our respect.

Anonymous said...

The production schedule being given by HAL is unrealistic unless HAL starts production of first 20 aircraft without waiting for completion of trials. If the production is to be started after completion of trials then the production will start in 2018 and first few Aircraft will roll out only in 2020.