SOURCE: IDRW The IAFâ€™s long struggle to acquire new aircraft for rookie pilots has got a fresh twist, with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited showing no interest in a proposal for licensed production of the Swiss basic trainer Pilatus PC Mk II, even as a simultaneous hunt has been launched for new intermediate jets. HAL is making both basic and advanced trainers for the IAF. But an inordinate delay in developing the aircraft has forced the IAF to look at other options. The IAFâ€™s flying training programme is structured in three stages, starting from the basic and moving to intermediate and advanced. The IAF uses different aircraft for every stage. It recently acquired Swiss Pilatus PC Mk II for basic training but it continues to use the outdated Kirans for intermediate stage, while the advanced programme is centered round the British Hawk jets. For the basic stage, the IAF has a requirement of 181 aircraft. It has ordered 75 Pilatus PC Mk II and has the option of buying 38 more Swiss aircraft while the rest can be procured from HAL, which is developing the HTT-40. With the HTT-40 programme not making much headway, the IAF proposed that it should get more of the Swiss aircraft. It invited bids from Indian companies, including HAL, to produce Pilatus. But sources from HAL have ruled out making the Pilatus when its own programme was underway. Sources said HAL has already spent around Rs 100 crore and will go ahead with its project. The aircraft, however, is nowhere near its first flight as neither the engine nor the propeller has been finalised. Running out of time, the IAF has proposed that Pilatus should be built at home. But an internal assessment about the proposal has not found many takers in the industry in India. The story of the intermediate jet trainer is equally worrisome. HAL claimed it has made some headway in correcting design defects in its Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) Sitara. But IAF is not hopeful the aircraft will be available even by the end of 2015. It has begun the process of hunting for a new IJT that will replace the Kirans, which were to be phased out in 2013.