Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is working on a LIFT (Lead In Fighter Trainer)/SpORT (Supersonic Omni Role Trainer) Aircraft program, which is a next generation fighter trainer aircraft for Indian Air Force (IAF).
The proposed LIFT jet will be based on twin seater airframe of Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, but this jet will incorporate modern cockpit and advance avionics unlike to LCA.
Announcing SpORT simulator in the Aero India show 2019, HAL said in a statement, ‘HAL is keen to launch the indigenous development of SpORT (Aircraft) with 4++ generation or equivalent capabilities to bridge the gap in pilot training to command front line fighters. The SpORT aircraft will be utilized for fighter training after Advanced Jet Training stage and before induction of pilots into a front line fighter squadron.’
In 2020 LCA-SpORT program renamed to LCA-LIFT (Lead-In Fighter-Trainer).
The IAF trainees pilot undergoes on 3 stages of training before becoming fighter pilots. The first stage is performed on a basic trainer jet. Currently Pilatus PC-7 basic trainer jet does this work for IAF. This platform will soon be replaced by indigenous basic trainer HAL HTT-40.
The second stage is intermediate Jet Training, currently IAF is using HAL Kiran for Intermediate Jet Training and this soon to be replaced by another indigenous platform IJT Sitara.
The third stage is advance jet training and IAF is using BAE Hawk platform for advance training.
Speed of these 3 aircraft, currently using or will be used by IAF for training is restricted to subsonic which means none of these has the capability to go beyond the speed of sound.
After these three levels of training a trainee pilot successfully inducted into a front line fighter squadron, where they gets time exposed to the advance technologies incorporated in IAF fighter jets.
On a platform like LIFT, trainee Pilot will get exposed to newest technology like, Helmet Mounted Display, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Missile, an advance Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, In flight refuelling etc., just after the third stage of training (Advance Training Stage), what they use to experience after the deployment.
LIFT will be equipped with an advance cockpit which incorporates wide area display, means data from all the different sensors will reflect on a single screen, unlike earlier when a pilot need to look after 3 to 4 different screens to gather information.
The aircraft cockpit will come up with a side stick controller instead of centre controller stick, just like all the modern western aircraft have nowadays.
The upcoming Medium Weight Fighter and Fifth Generation AMCA will also incorporates this kind of advance cockpit and through LIFT the training of Indian Air Force or Navy pilots will become much more effective.
This platform will be used as trainer jet in peace time and can be used in combat operations in war.
As of now HAL has not given any timeline for this aircraft but they are working on the prototype and if everything goes by plan, LIFT will become reality by 2024-25.