India has decided to put its indigenously developed Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer through fresh wind tunnel tests following upgrade of its design.
“The plan is to put the trainer aircraft through the crucial Spin Test - in which the plane is deliberately allowed to stall midair and recovered as part of the training process within the next six months.” Top officials involved in the project were quoted as saying by The Economic Times today.
However, the jet has gone through a lot troubled developmental phase in the past, including a crash in 2011.
The IJT program, Rs 2,989-crore project that commenced in 1999 had hit a dead end after the aircraft failed to demonstrate its ability to get out of a stall and spin, a critical feature needed in a trainer aircraft that would be flown by rookie pilots. Its developer Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) had to call in external consultant BAE Systems in 2014 for a redesign of the aircraft tail to meet the stall specifications of the air force.
“We are conducting a few more wind tunnel tests and should be read for a final round of the spin test within the next six months,” a senior official said.
The IJT has met other specifications of the air force but has not been able to meet this critical safety test, forcing a change in the pilot training program. The air force is in urgent need of an intermediate trainer jet as the current `Kiran Mk II’ aircraft fleet used for the training is being phased out.
As the air force is facing scarcity of trainer aircraft, it is rearranging its pilot training program from a three aircraft plan to a three stage and two aircraft plan.