In the April of 2019 happened the first flight of HAL IJT-36 aircraft in almost 3 years during which we almost thought the program to be dead. But HAL after failing several times with different modifications, finally came out with one which showed promising results in wind tunnel testing in France. The two major problem of the aircraft was its stall and spin characteristics and its overall weight exceeding the expectations and the problems with engines.
Since the restart of testing, lockdown due to pandemic has hampered flying for months and movement restrictions mean that HAL is having problem devoting sufficient men to modify more planes to increase testing speed. But despite all this gloom some progress has been made which has been largely missed by the media.
Engine Improvement and Testing: Russia’s Rostec has almost completed the certification and testing of the AL-55I engine which will power the HJT-36. Earlier there were reliability issues with the engine, which now have been solved to a large extent. UEC-Saturn has increased its service life from 100 hours to 1200 hours as per its announcement in Feb this year. The work remaining is confirmation of service life of engine in leading service after which the serial production will start.
To counter over-weight issues, HAL is making attempts through minor modifications and changes on the fuselage to shed some weight. What is the final result yet remains to be seen but the team of HAL is working on it. What modifications are we talking about also remains unclear as of now.
Stall and Spin Test: This was the biggest problem. HAL has stretched the tail section of the aircraft by more that 1 meter to counter this problem. HJT-36 in later 2020 completed its first spin test. As of May 2021, HJT 36 has re-started flight testing after a brief pause due to lockdown. Till date HJT-36 has demonstrated recovery from 3 turn spins. More tests will be done to take it further. HAL has the backing of IAF now for this project.
Currently with the older IJT fleet retiring, IAF is conducting its Stage-2 training from the PC-7MK2 fleet itself.