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Getting it wrong – again

Nostalgic view of flight apron at the

Air Force Academy, Dundigal before
the Harvards were phased out.
The flying training sequence then
(HT-2/Harvard/Vampire) was never
satisfactorily supplanted, although
the HPT-32/HJT-16/Hunter sequence
was adopted till the latter type was
retired and its successor the Hawk
inducted two decades late.


ndian magazines on defence Armed Forces as also the Police and So why no Basic Trainer at the Air
preparedness, weapon acquisitions, Para-Military. To reiterate a cliché, a Force Academy?
financial allocations for Armed Forces, bewildered BSF cop asks, “Why do I get How do we explain this blunder to our
joint ventures with global manufacturers, a rifle that stops more often than it fires”. youth, to the tax paying public who have
mislead readers into believing that India’s He refers to the Insas. This is our true sacrificed much for maintaining the IAF?
defence production is strong, reliable, state and the tragic CRPF engagement Should we have reached this road-block?
contemporary, and robust. Exhortations at Dantewada is evidence. We saw it coming and if that be so, who
of Private – Public partnerships to invest The scene is no different in the military neglected to make enough noise for
in defence related industry abound, with aviation arena, where we do not even have remedial action? Can all the agencies
promises of level playing grounds and a basic trainer for the IAF. Can there be involved in providing the basic trainer
fair deals. No hints of impediments by any excuse for this shameful situation? A honestly say that they did everything
disingenuous bureaucratic wrangles, nation that boasts of an enviable technical possible to avoid this impasse? There are
legal inventiveness with loads of political manpower, cannot give its own Air Force people and organisations who displayed
inertia and greed. the capability to train pilots for defending culpable, careless and wilful negligence.
So what’s the problem one may Indian skies? The HPT-32 hurt us enough The non-availability of a trainer aircraft did
ask? It happens all over the world. How and its replacement could have been the not just happen, it has been brought about.
is India different? Manoeuvring the designated HTT-34. For some unusual Who did this? How come governmental
techno-commercial maze, negotiating reason, the HTT-34 was evaluated against institutions, checks & balances, auditors,
bureaucratic-legal hassles, confronting turbo trainers in the class of the Tucano/ Parliament Committees, Defence HQs, the
political hazards, is a part of the game, Texan II, making it virtually impossible MOD, PMO, and the all powerful print
and has been for years, how can it change? to accept. Have we forgotten the dictum and electronic media, let this happen?
Question is not that should it change, but that no man should do to others that What about our sole aircraft manufacturer
why is it not changing? India’s Armed which is repugnant to himself? One friend HAL and other aeronautical research
Forces have always been getting the short suggested that we should have evaluated establishments working with HAL where
end of the stick; it is time to get what we the HTT-34 against the MiG-29 if we had has their attention been riveted? What
need. India’s defence production base is decided to reject it before the evaluation! about NAL, which makes aeroplanes
weak, unreliable and redundant without But that story may never see light of day no one wants, why did they not make a
visible remedial action. This is well even with the RTI. So what do we do? Is it trainer instead of the abdicable Saras?
known to those involved in production our inability to do it right, or our proclivity What’s worse, NAL now wants to make an
and procurements, and more so to the to do it wrong? ambitions regional airliner! The HPT-32’s

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Lycoming engine powers many other aircraft. Which other Air Force in this later, whatever be the cause, yet we refuse
aircraft types under comparable universe trains its pilots this way? Are we to do it right. The Air Force Academy must
temperature, humidity, dusty conditions unwilling to do it right, are determined to continue training pilots with whatever is
as exist at Air Force Academy, Dundigal. do it wrong, have we no solution? available, but is this the most efficient
Those Lycoming engines are not failing Before we move onto whether we and cost effective method of building and
with regularity as ours do. Has this could have got a basic trainer in time, let’s sustaining the 4th largest Air Force in the
anomaly been adequately investigated? apportion blame on all those who deserve world? What image are we presenting
Are we doing something wrong? Is it our it. Vayu readers will have a rather long list. before the USA, Russia, Europe, Middle
inability to do it right? Are we hiding One guilty party is the system of selecting, East, South East Asia, and our neighbours?
something? Have we asked unbiased short-listing, tendering, negotiating, and What confidence do we inspire among
and non-partisan experts to study our finally procuring. So who makes the the knowledgeable population of India?
methods? If maintenance by the IAF is system? Get that guy, he is the bureaucrat. We have everything readily available to
incorrect, who is to remedy this? What Punishment for bureaucrats / technocrats procure or manufacture a basic trainer for
about the mixture lever? Why should it be is rare. The Military Secretary of the the IAF, but we do not do it. Is this not
locked at ‘fully rich’? Did we not fly the Indian Army gets the sack for a Sukhna a clear demonstration of our proclivity
T-6G Harvard and adjust the mixture? scam. Which technocrat / bureaucrat to keep doing it wrong? Designers,
has been punished for the innumerable manufacturers and their controllers must
A parachute to bring scams they created including that of no be accountable.
down the HPT-32! trainer aircraft? Voltaire preached, “Harsh
It is rumoured, hopefully it remains thus, retribution serves not only to punish the Change the guard and
that a modification is planned to retrofit a culprit, but also encourages others to get a new balloon
parachute onto the HPT-32, for should the remain virtuous”. Harshness is meted out In an earlier article by the author, it was
engine die, then that parachute would be only to military men, never to babudom. suggested that PSUs and the DRDO must
deployed to bring it down safely? Sounds Kya baat hai? be made accountable for their uncontrolled
wonderful, especially for those not flying blunders. General VP Malik, former
the HPT-32. Has enough thought been We have the wherewithal COAS was forced to ask his army to fight
given to the psychological wallop on to get trainers in Kargil “with whatever we have”. Many
instructor and pupil? What do instructors India has been flush with foreign exchange criticised him for saying so, but what did
tell cadets about this clumsy parachute for years, the HPT-32 has been troubling the critics expect him to say? That unless
which will bring them down, but not us for years, and alternate base trainer the troops get latest equipment demanded
back? And pray how does the pilot guide aircraft have been available for many years back, we will wait and let the enemy
that parachute so that it touches down years, yet we have not procured them! come further into India? The military
vertically without drift, twist or wobble? It is inconceivable that the Air Force commander does his job with what he
What are the survivability data of crew Academy and IAF Training Command has at the time the battle is joined. Then
when this amazing procedure concludes? did not demand replacements because Air Marshal Arjan Singh did not wait
And, what are the aerobatic, spin, stall HPT-32 engine failures have persistently for new aircraft in September 1965, he
characteristics with the parachute? Will delayed training schedules. Which trainer fought with Vampires, Mysteres, Hunters
we teach our boys only circuits and and at what cost is outside the purview of and Gnats. At the end of the battle, the
landings? Once again is it our proclivity this story. The truth is that trainers, piston military commander is judged by his peers
to do it wrong? And when we do it wrong, or turboprop, have been available, but the and juniors who fought for him. When
and lose people in that wrongdoing, who MOD has not shown the earnestness to will India assess the PSUs and DRDO
will be accountable? get them. Surely, blame in some form or laboratories along with their controlling
Most, who approve this horrendous another, must also reside with the IAF. bureaucrats and political masters?
modification will be unavailable for If MOD can be so swift in asking It has been very strongly suggested
investigations. Eventually someone Chiefs of Staff to not make remarks about by technocrats, academics, visionaries,
sufficiently inclined will conduct an certain issues, then what prevents the same military leaders, corporate captains and
enquiry and apportion blame on the MOD from making sure that the Chiefs informed journalists that private enterprise
inanimate parachute, its raisers, and quickly make up their minds on what must get a stake in Defence Industries,
strong winds in the Deccan. Reminds one they want? But after a Chief decides, the and only then can India hope to get her
of the abrupt change of presiding officer babu takes over (along with his political beleaguered aircraft industry moving at
inquiring into the crash of the HS-748 patrons), and thereby hangs the tale of the pace required. HAL and its associated
AWACS at Arkonam. Who got blamed long delayed defence procurements. What R&D units have failed the IAF (and India)
for that awful calamity? Surely blame a mess this is and all the while we have again and again. One LCA and an ALH in
was due? Who will get blamed for the had the financial resources, technical 30 years is not good enough. If the aircraft
equally tragic Saras crash? We want to expertise, pilots / engineers readily design and manufacturing conglomerate
continue flying the HPT-32, but knowing available to initiate processes for inducting is incapable of delivering a basic trainer,
that the engine will die, more often than trainer aircraft. It was no secret that the let’s find some other who can. Let not
not, we slap on a parachute for a whole HPT-32 must be replaced sooner than egos or ahankara decide such strategic

policy. The industry needs a fresh breath successes involved with the UAV project. comments on various issues, then they can
of exhilarating helium to take it to the The private sector is taboo. Look at what force the Chief of Air Staff to choose the
heights demanded by an India that needs the Chairman Medical Council of India is Basic trainer. The politico-bureaucratic
to address her military aviation needs of alleged to have done. It is inconceivable combine lacks the knowledge and courage
the 21st Century. that those who should have prevented it to take matters in hand and do what must
We have supported our aviation were ignorant about his infringements! be done. Without courage there cannot
industry without justifiable returns only That is exactly what has happened about be truth; and without truth there can be
because it needed “time to mature”. the Basic Trainer Aircraft for the IAF. no other virtue. The civilians who control
But, by any standards, 60 years is a long The MOD knew all along that something everything, but are ill-equipped and
time to mature. Because we are more terrible was amiss and very soon the Air unwilling, fail to understand that “War
concerned and anxious about how the Force Academy will be crippled without to the soldier is a trade; to the officer
aviation industry is perceived, and not such trainers. ‘What Me Worry’! is the it is a profession, to the general it is an
how it functions, we showered it with attitude of India’s aviation industry art”, as stated by Napoleon Bonaparte.
independent time and funds. Perhaps this which has now grounded military aviation Conducting flying training for military
matters because the aviation industry is training, and achieved this without a shot pilots is an art for the Air Marshal. The
uncertain of its perceived worth, if and being fired by our adversary. No one is treatment meted out by HAL to the
outsiders show complete disinterest in to blame? No dismissals? No questions Armed Forces is shameful, evidenced
their ventures, it will disappear. Maybe in parliament? No scientist of eminence by the absence of basic trainers today at
the time has come to tell the truth without castigating the system for this criminal our Academy. While the Air Force Chief
hemming and hawing. As Michelangelo is failure? No solution except slapping a will find a solution to keep his forces
supposed to have told Pope Julius II while parachute onto the HPT-32! Blame flying airborne, the criticality and risks imposed
painting the Sistine Chapel, ‘If the wine is from one to another, like Duryodhan upon the IAF does not seem to worry
sour, throw it out’. Is it time for the Air blaming Dronacharya for Pandavas any technocrat/ bureaucrat/politician.
Force to do something similar? being great warriors. When intentions are Without swift punishment to those who
flawed, and dedication is fictitious, one have brought this peril upon India,
“Keep the private players out”, will cast blame on others. nothing will change. If IPL can survive
that is paramount The absence of basic trainers is an without Lalit Modi, if Foreign Affairs can
Even if the Air Force coerces remedial unenviable position for any Air Force. survive without Shashi Tharoor, if Satyam
processes, somebody other than the From 150 trainers, there now are none. can survive without Ramalinga Raju, if
IAF has to implement that remedy and Which organisation is responsible for CPI (M) can survive without Somnath
therein lies the crunch. Because those this? The bureaucrat / technocrats will say Chatterjee, our aviation industry and R&D
‘somebody’s’ are the very ones who must that the IAF does not make up its mind. organisations can also survive without
first be charged, as sour wine causes more If the babu can certainly force the Chiefs HAL and DRDO.
acidity than intoxication. Who or what of Armed Forces to desist from making Gp Capt Anant G. Bewoor (retd.)
group of dedicated visionaries
with adequate clout can initiate
the change? If the IAF / Navy/
Army get what they need, when
they want it, their support will be
S pot the change: In the late 1940s,
the IAF received HAL licence-
built Percival Prentice basic trainer
unfailing. The last 50 years are (below) which were in turn replaced
evident of that support as India’s by HT-2s. 40 years later, the IAF
Armed Forces have a stake in replaced its HT-2s with the HPT-32
nurturing a domestic aviation (left) for basic flying training. In
industry that surges with pride at 2010, with the HPT-32s grounded, the
delivering what the fauji needs, IAF is being forced to import basic
not what he has to take. The trainers even as HAL endeavours to
tragicomic Saras case of NAL design the HTT-40.
illustrates this dilemma, along
with Arjun, Insas, Indra, and
more. Keeping private companies
out of the game is the primary aim
because far too many skeletons
will then tumble out. Witness the
report that only BEL and HAL
are receiving orders for UAVs. It
would be grossly inconvenient to
have Tatas, M&M, L&T, Bharat
Forge and similar corporate

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