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Chapter 5 : HJT-36 Sitara


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The HAL HJT-36 'Sitara' Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) is the slated replacement for the HAL HJT-16 Mk.IA and Mk.II trainers in IAF service. Only two prototypes (S-3466 and S-3474) exist and HAL brought both of them to the show, .perhaps to make up for the broken promise of flying the first HJT-36 prototype at Aero India 2003. Additional prototypes aren't likely to be built as HAL maintain that only two are required to complete the entire development phase of programme. Motivated by the speed and success of the latter and an estimation that the IAF would need more than the 66 Hawk AJTs on order, HAL also announced their initiative to develop the HJT-39 Combat Attack Trainer (CAT), for the AJT and secondary ground attack roles. A full scale forward fuselage and glass cockpit mockup of the CAT was displayed, the former almost exactly matching the HJT-36's forward fuselage and nose shape. The aircraft is expected to fly 44 months after the go-ahead. The mockup of this aircraft type was first displayed at Aero India 1998 and two prototypes are now flying at the same show, a few years later. Will the same happen with the HJT-39?  
S-3466 is the first prototype of the HJT-36 and initially flew with only one seat, the instructor's seat being replaced with flight test instrumentation. This aircraft mainly remained on static display and occasionally flew on demonstration sorties, not a part of the actual air display, which was left to the second prototype.  
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S-3466 also had no HUD in the beginning but now adorns a HUD from Thales. The cockpit of dial pointer instruments is also to be standardized to the level of the one on the second prototype. This machine completed 81 sorties/55 hrs of flight by mid-January 2005. 

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S-3466 returns from a demonstration sortie. Minimal ground support equipment and staff were required to keep both aircraft active. Both prototypes are based at HAL's aircraft division at the HAL Airport in Bangalore, just a few miles away from Yelahanka. They share their hangar with the first LCA prototype TD-1. 
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The second, brighter looking, prototype (S-3474) arrives at the show. The aircraft encountered a minor glitch when it's tyre burst on the tarmac, one day before the show but this was immediately remedied in time for it's flyby at the inauguration and other days. 
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At first, this example too, had no HUD. The frame and dual combiners of the HUD here, seem very similar to the indigenous HUD on the LCA, although Thales is the contracted supplier. This example's cockpit was also equipped with LCD 3ATI and 4ATI instruments from the start and very few dial pointer instruments. The former are also supplied by Thales.  
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S-3474 moves into it's static display position after arrival, where it was seldom unattended to. The HJT-36 is expected to be demonstrated abroad, either this year or the next, joining the 'Sarang' helicopter display team and the Surya Kirans. 
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Not only is the paint scheme excellent but so is the quality of paint. Unfortunately one cannot say the same about the quality of paint or coat thickness on IAF aircraft. There exists a visible difference between the quality of painting done by HAL and those done by the IAF itself. 
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The first batch of the 12 Limited Series Production (LSP) aircraft are to be handed over to the Surya Kiran display team, to replace the latter's HJT-16 Kiran Mk.II. Thus the use of bright red and white may not be purely coincidental.   
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It's turn having arrived, S-3474 taxies to it's position on the runway. The flight display was carried out with only one pilot. The aircraft uses a HAL COM1150A UHF transceiver and an INCOM 1210A Integrated Radio Communication System as well as an IFF-1410A transponder. 
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The SNECMA Larzac0420 is to be replaced by the more powerful NPO Saturn AL-55. Although SNECMA were offering to co-develop an improved variant, the fact that a still-in-development AL-55 was chosen, raises some doubts and perhaps questions related to ethics? The AL-55, to be license produced at HAL's Engine Divison, is also expected to power the HJT-39.     
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The IJT stands ready for take-off. Although never really marketed aggressively for export yet, the competitive potential of this aircraft seems to have caught Aermacchi's attention which has recently responded with the M-311. One could wonder what the result of western-equivalent PR by HAL would be?
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Take-off at last! The aircraft offers an excellent view of the front from the rear instructor seat at 8, perhaps the best available in any similar aircraft. The Zvezda K-36LT Ejection seats, rejected for the LCA due to their high cost, have strangely found their way into the HJT-36.   
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The aircraft prepares to climb to high altitude where it will perform it's display routine. The aircraft has a total endurance of 2.5 hrs. Production standard load factors are +7/-2.5 G and the currently explored regime has covered +4 to5 G, good enough for an aerobatic display.
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S-3474 had only completed 46 sorties/27 hrs of flying by mid-Jan 2005 but put together an awesome display of maneuvers and aerobatics. This was also despite being underpowered with the Larzac, compared to their production standard thrust requirements. If the solo demonstration was so impressive, one wonders what the Surya Kirans would achieve with this aircraft?  
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The mockup of the HJT-39 CAT's cockpit shows the indigenous CSIO/BEL-developed HUD and UFCP, used on the LCA. At this stage, the CAT appears to be little more than a twin-engined HJT-36 in terms of shape. Before their actual formal proposal, HAL had announced the potential of an improved HJT-36 derivative. 
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