Bengaluru, June 17: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Friday that the Hindustan Turbo Trainer (HTT-40) project of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has the complete backing of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Addressing a press conference at HAL's Hawk hangar, inside the Old Airport, Parrikar said that with a new government in place at the Centre, the project has been given a renewed push.
Showering praise on HAL's youngsters who spearheaded the HTT-40 project, Parrikar said he had confidence in the team right from the word go.
"I had interacted with the young team earlier. When I met them last year, they showed me a presentation and I was convinced that they would deliver. In fact the aircraft first flew ahead of the schedule (May 31, 2016). I am happy," Parrikar said.
Ahead of the press meet, Parrikar witnessed the official flight of HTT-40, during which it did some limited manoeuvres. This was the Basic Trainer Aircraft's (BTA) 8th flight since its maiden flight on May 31.
HAL has full freedom to export BTA
Keeping HTT-40 on focus and not wanting the media to raise other issues, Parrikar said he has given the full freedom to HAL to explore the export potential of HTT-40.
"As per the current plan, the production should start in 2018. I have told HAL care of the after sales customer care well, an area they need to improve. The indigenous content of HTT-40 is very high and close to 80 per cent. The IAF is very keen on this aircraft and they have given full backing. Let's not dig into the past and talk about what happened earlier," Parrikar said.
Orders could go up for BTA in future
Saying that the HTT-40 has the firm commitment from the IAF (70 numbers), he said the numbers could go up to 200 in future depending upon the demand from various users.
"Our government has given the required support the project requires," the minister said.
The minister did not forget to mention the name of the HTT-40 Project Manager Prashant Singh Bhadoria, a 36-year-old engineer, who played a key role in the programme. Prashant, hailing from Nanded in Maharashtra, is with HAL for the past 15 years.
Young team gets a pat on their back
Parrikar also invited the young HTT-40 team members for a group photo and said: "Seeing their confidence even I am feeling very positive. As it is, I am a very positive man."
Earlier soon after the aircraft landed, Prashant took Parrikar for a walk-around his pet project. Parrikar also got into the cockpit and chose to use the pilot's ladder instead of VIP one, specially positioned next to the plane.
HAL Chairman T Suvarna Raju said HTT-40 had already completed around 20 test points.