The Indian Air Force (IAF), which is looking to lease mid-air refuelling aircraft, will adopt a new methodology for the process based on the number of hours of availability per year as criteria, a senior defence official said.
“The leasing will be based on hours of availability per year indicating the minimum and maximum hours required,” the official said. “We will use the leased tankers for training purposes and keep the existing IL-78s in service for operational purposes,” the official stated.
On the number of refuellers that would be leased, the official said it would be decided based on the responses the IAF receives.
The IAF presently has six Russian IL-78 tankers and is looking at leasing a few tanker aircraft to meet immediate requirements as the deal for procuring six new tankers has repeatedly failed to fructify.
The IAF is also looking to lease Basic Trainer Aircraft (BTA) to fill the immediate shortage for training rookie pilots. With the follow-on contract for Pilatus trainers now scrapped, the leased aircraft would plug the gaps in training till the indigenous HTT-40 being developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is inducted. A Request for Information was recently issued for leasing of BTA.
The IAF has 75 PC-7 MK-II BTA procured from Pilatus Aircraft Ltd under a ₹4,000 crore deal in 2012 for which deliveries were completed by 2015-end. However, following allegations of corruption, the follow-on deal for additional aircraft was scraped.
With Kiran trainers being obsolete and indigenous HTT-40 in advanced trials, the IAF is looking to plug the gap through leasing of trainers. About 20 aircraft could be leased for four-five years, officials had stated earlier.
In August 2020, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the procurement of 106 HTT-40 for the IAF of which Post certification 70 BTA will be initially procured from HAL and balance 36 after operationalisation of HTT-40 fleet in IAF. The leased trainers will meet the shortfall till tern especially as the IAF is looking to increase the intake of pilots too, the official added.
The Navy too is considering leasing several platforms like utility helicopters, used minesweepers, tankers among others. The Army is looking to lease four Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) from Israel which is in advanced stages of conclusion.
The option for leasing of military equipment was introduced in the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020. The three services have since listed several platforms for leasing to cater for immediate shortages.