New Delhi: Though the Congress has been debating that the Rafale deal was snatched from the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and given to Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence, sources said that delay in executing the Intermediate Jet Trainer Sitara programme by the public sector unit has led to a loss of Rs 3,000 crore for the Indian Air Force (IAF). 

According to sources, the defence ministry is all set to foreclose the jet trainer programme which was supposed to help in the training of rookie pilots in the force. The programme was launched in 1999. 

“The defence ministry will be discussing a proposal to foreclose the IJT Sitara programme, which HAL has been working on for more than a decade. The Air Force has already paid around Rs 4,800 crore to the HAL for the development of the trainer aircraft. It was scheduled to develop 12 prototypes of the plane. But it is not going the way the Air Force wanted it to develop," a senior government official told MyNation.

The official added that the government will also take a decision on whether HAL would be asked to return the remaining Rs 2,100 crore, which the IAF had given it to develop prototypes of the plane. 

The LCA Tejas aircraft development project of the HAL has also been marred by long delays and cost overruns over the years and also adversely affected the operational preparedness of the IAF. 

Sources said the state-run company wanted to carry out further trials on the IJT to provide safety features in the plane, but in recent times, the IAF had given up on the project, which was started in 1999. In 2011, an IJT aircraft had crashed at the Aero India defence show. 

The HAL had also involved European defence firm BAE Systems to study the possible developments in the plane to enhance its safety features and help it perform better. However, those arrangements failed to yield any positive results. 

Over the years, the HAL has been the only manufacturer of planes in India for the IAF but has not done much to produce any big item on its own. 

To reduce dependence on the HAL and promote the private sector in defence, the defence ministry under the UPA government had chosen Airbus of Spain as partner for producing 56 transport planes for replacing the Avro aircraft for the IAF. The NDA government also continued with this policy of the UPA government. 

The IAF badly wanted the IJTs as it needs them for training pilots as the existing trainer jets in the Kiran aircraft are set to be phased out soon.