India — Pilatus Seals Record Plane Deal With India

The Pila­tus air­craft man­u­fac­tur­er has con­firmed a deal to export 75 PC‑7 MkII mil­i­tary train­ing air­craft to India worth $523 mil­lion — the biggest-ever con­tract for the tur­bo­prop train­er in the Stans-based firm’s his­to­ry.

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The com­pa­ny also con­firmed on Thurs­day that it is in the final stages of a major con­tract with Sau­di Ara­bia for 55 PC-21 pro­peller-dri­ven train­ers via a deal with the British defence con­trac­tor BAE Sys­tems PLC (see freeform).

The India deal, which also includes an inte­grat­ed ground-based train­ing sys­tem and logis­tics sup­port, match­es the firm’s pre­vi­ous largest sale of 25 PC-21 planes sold to the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates in Novem­ber 2009 for SFr500 mil­lion.

Deliv­er­ies should begin at the end of 2012 and the con­tract pro­vides for a pos­si­ble addi­tion­al 30 PC-7s.

Pila­tus, which had a record turnover of SFr781 mil­lion in 2011 – up 14 per cent on 2010 – and employs 1,441 peo­ple (1,302 at Stans), has so far sold 900 PC-7s to 30 air forces around the world.

The man­u­fac­tur­er beat off rivals like the Amer­i­can Beechcraft T‑6C Tex­an II and the South Kore­an KT‑1, which were also on the final short­list after a two-year bid­ding process.

India is the world’s largest weapons importer and is cur­rent­ly spend­ing bil­lions of dol­lars on fight­er jets and air­craft car­ri­ers to mod­ernise its air force and navy, and gain inter­na­tion­al clout.

Defence spe­cial­ists view the Pila­tus plane deal as fill­ing a mas­sive capa­bil­i­ty gap in the train­ing pro­gramme of the Indi­an Air Force, the fourth largest in the world with 170,000 per­son­nel and 1,500 air­craft oper­at­ing from over 60 bases. It pur­port­ed­ly requires some 200 train­er planes.

India was forced to look for new basic train­ing air­craft after its fleet of Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics-built HPT-32 Deep­ak train­ing planes were ground­ed from July 2009 onwards fol­low­ing 17 crash­es.


The Indi­an export licence was approved in ear­ly 2011 by a Swiss inter-min­is­te­r­i­al export mon­i­tor­ing group, which includ­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the State Sec­re­tari­at for Eco­nom­ic Affairs (Seco) and the for­eign and defence min­istries.

As the PC‑7 planes will be export­ed unarmed, unmod­i­fied and for train­ing pur­pos­es, the Swiss author­i­ties do not con­sid­er them war mate­r­i­al and so they do not fall under the law gov­ern­ing the export of weapons.

“All deci­sions are dif­fi­cult but in this case there was gen­er­al con­sen­sus to back the deal,” Jür­gen Böh­ler, head of Seco’s export con­trols divi­sion, told just after the approval last year.

“All exports are exam­ined accord­ing to our cri­te­ria – Is there an embar­go in place? Could there be pos­si­ble mis­use of the mate­r­i­al? Is the order tech­ni­cal­ly plau­si­ble accord­ing to its declared use?”

His­to­ry of con­tro­ver­sy :

Pila­tus has been no stranger to con­tro­ver­sy in the past. Some of its prod­ucts have his­tor­i­cal­ly been cat­e­gorised as dual-use, which means that they can serve in both civil­ian and mil­i­tary capac­i­ties.

The paci­fist group Switzer­land with­out an Army argues that Pila­tus train­er planes are also used in armed con­flicts against armed rebel­lions as they are more sol­id than nor­mal train­ing planes and “prac­ti­cal­ly designed to be armed”.

Since the 1970s, mod­i­fied, armed Pila­tus air­craft are said to have been used in Myan­mar, Guatemala, Mex­i­co, Chile, Bolivia, Nige­ria, Iraq and Chad.

Armed vio­lence in the dis­put­ed Kash­mir region, as well as prob­lems in India’s north­east­ern states of Assam and Manipur, and Andhra Pradesh in the south­east, were rea­sons to be con­cerned, accord­ing to the Swiss paci­fist group.

And Switzer­land could be viewed as con­tribut­ing to a build-up of mil­i­tary mate­r­i­al in the region, which dis­cred­its its posi­tion as peace pro­mot­er and human rights defend­er, it adds.

But experts seri­ous doubt the new PC-7s will be deployed in secu­ri­ty oper­a­tions in these regions as the Indi­an Air Force has played a very lim­it­ed role in such oper­a­tions in the past and India has its work cut out train­ing pilots to fly the new planes.


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