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India clears Rs 2,800 crore trainer aircraft deal

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An unrelated photo of Pilatus aircraft.

NEW DELHI (PTI): Fulfiling Air Force's long-pending requirement, government has cleared a proposal worth over Rs 2,800 crore for procuring 75 Pilatus aircraft from Switzerland to train its rookie pilots.

Government has approved the deal to procure 75 Pilatus Basic Trainer Aircraft for IAF, highly placed Defence Ministry sources told PTI Thursday.

The decision was taken at a meeting of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) Thursday evening chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The deal was hanging fire for last one year after one of the contender Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) alleged that Pilatus' bid was incomplete and it did not fulfil some of the requirements of Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) instituted by government.

The aircraft are being procured by the IAF to provide training to its rookie pilots and replace the HPT-32 trainer aircraft which have been grounded for over two years after a fatal accident in 2009, Defence Ministry officials said.

The delivery of the planes are expected to begin by the middle of 2013.

The deal is critical for IAF's training requirements as in the next two years, there will be a shortage of Kiran Mk II trainer aircraft which are being used to impart flying lessons to the new trainee cadets in the flying branch of the IAF.

Recently, the Parliament's Standing Committee on Defence also highlighted the "critical deficiency" of trainer aircraft for the young IAF pilots.

The Committee had also noted that the deficiency of trainer aircraft has resulted in inadequate training of the pilots.

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