The Indian Air Force (IAF) has issued a request for information (RFP) seeking participation from domestic companies in the proposed $1.2bn programme to manufacture 106 Pilatus PC-7 Mark-II trainer aircraft.
Claimed to be the first of its kind, the RFP asks selected companies if they would like to participate in production of PC-7 Mark-II trainers under license from Pilatus in the "Buy and Make (Indian)" category, as reported by Defense News.
However, the category is found to be uneconomical by local companies, as it restricts contracts and requires them to supply at least half of the components and subsystems.
The trainer aircraft would be manufactured by a selected domestic company and the Swiss original equipment manufacturer (OEM), according to the RFP, which also seeks requisite tools, testers, ground-based training systems, full-motion simulators, avionics and spare parts.
An unnamed executive of Tata Group, which received the RFP, was quoted by the news agency as saying that all interested Indian companies will have to first talk to Pilatus and subsequently calculate their cost under the tender's terms.
Pilatus would be the main beneficiary under the Indian programme, which leaves little profit for the domestic companies, the official added.
Until now, no Indian company, including Tata Group, has confirmed negotiations with Pilatus on the programme.
Meanwhile, an unnamed Indian Defence Ministry source said the Buy and Make proposal will not materialise due to lack of interest from domestic companies and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's (HAL) push for its own programme.
HAL is developing an indigenous trainer aircraft in an attempt to block the proposed Pilatus programme, according to the source.
HAL was approached by IAF to license-produce the Pilatus aircraft in 2013, but the state-owned company rejected the proposal, saying it was working on its own project.
Despite rejection by IAF, HAL is continuing development of the HTT-40 basic trainer, noting that the aircraft would be more advanced than the PC-7 due to weapon-firing capabilities and other improvements.
The HTT-40 is expected to make its maiden test flight by 2015, according to an undisclosed HAL official.
Image: IAF seeks to domestically manufacture 106 Pilatus PC-7 PC-7 Mk II aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Christo Crous.