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Surya Kiran fleet to be used for pilot training, says IAF

India Air Force's Surya Kiran team presenting an air show during the full dress rehearsal for the 77th Air Force Day function in Hindon, Ghaziabad on Tuesday. Image Credit: PTI.

NEW DELHI (PTI): With the HPT-32 aircraft fleet grounded, the IAF Tuesday said that it will augment the HPT-16 Kiran trainer fleet with Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team's (SKAT) aircraft to train its young pilots.

"We will put to use the 12 Kiran aircraft of the SKAT in training rookie pilots and these aircraft would augment the existing Kiran fleet of the IAF training establishment," IAF Spokesperson Wing Commander T K Singha said here.

However, this would not mean that SKAT is being disbanded and the team would continue to perform even after the coming Air Force Day parade on October 8, he added.

"The SKAT is not being disbanded. The aircraft will augment pilot training and the SKAT has in the past loaned their aircraft for such purposes," Singha added.

Expressing surprise over talks of SKAT being disbanded, its spokesperson Wing Commander D Roychowdhury told PTI, "We have no idea where these reports come from. We have not been sounded about it. It won't happen without us knowing."

The HPT-32s were grounded following a crash in July near Medak in Andhra Pradesh in which two experienced instructors were killed.

This had led to a crisis in the IAF training establishment due to non-availability of trainer aircraft for basic stage-1 training of pilots.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik had last week said that the young pilots were now were being trained on Kirans, an aircraft that they graduated to after basic training on HPT-32.

Singha said there was also no plan to reduce the number of aerobatic displays by the SKAT despite their fleet's increased involvement in training.

"The SKAT is the pride of the IAF. No one has talked about its disbanding. It is a show-stealer. It will continue with its displays in the future," he added.

SKAT performs at different places across the country to spread awareness and attract youth to the IAF. The team participated in a Chinese air show also during then IAF chief Air Chief Marshal F H Major's visit to China last year.

Based at Air Force station, Bidar, the team has a total of 13 pilots of whom only nine fly at any given time.

The pilots are selected from the fighter stream of the IAF.

Presently there are pilots with experience on the Mirage 2000, Jaguar, MiG-23 and MiG-27 fighter aircraft.

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