Indigenous basic trainer HTT-40 makes maiden flight

The HTT-40, an indigenous basic trainer aircraft being developed for the Indian Air Force by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, took to the skies for the first time on Tuesday morning, and flew for nearly 30 minutes.

The first prototype was flown as part of its development trials from the HAL airport near Bengaluru.

HTT-40, short for Hindustan Turbo Trainer, is the basic tandem seat aircraft in which the IAF will train its novice pilot recruits in a three-step flight training. Defence aircraft manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd's Aircraft Research & Development Centre has designed and developed it.

The other two levels are the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) also being developed by HAL, and the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer imported during the last decade from the U.K. manufacturer, BAE Systems.

Ever since the first prototype rolled out of the hangar in February, it was being tested on various fronts, starting with several engine ground runs, low-speed and high-speed taxi trials a few days back, and finally the first flight, according to people familiar with the developments.

Officials at HAL said they cannot discuss the matter. After the older trainers, the HTT-32 Deepak, were grounded in 2009, the IAF estimated that it needs 181 modern basic trainers. However, there were several hurdles to HAL's successor project, the HTT-40.

The project was in limbo for a couple of years after the IAF in 2012 opted to buy the Swiss-make Pilatus PC7 MkII trainers on the grounds of cost and time.

The first order of 75 Pilatuses has been delivered for $ 5.6 billion and another 38 are to be acquired.

The HAL board decided to go ahead with it on its own and budgeted Rs350 crore for its trainer. In March 2015, the Defence Acquisition Council said 68 of them would be bought by the IAF, in addition to the 113 Pilatus aircraft.