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HAL HJT-16 Kiran (Ray of Light) - India, 1968

Detailing the development and operational history of the HAL HJT-16 Kiran (Ray of Light) Intermediate-Advanced Trainer / Light Attack Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 6/13/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The Indian HJT-16 Kiran flew for the first time on September 4th, 1964, and remains in service today - though its replacement is in active development.

Not content with relying on purchase of foreign military goods, the nation of India has long been nurturing an aeronautics industry. This has produced a mixed bag of results which has keep a focus on foreign suppliers, making India the biggest military customer in the world today (2015). However, some programs did in fact yield fruit such as the HAL "Kiran" ("Ray of Light") which became an indigenous two-seat intermediate jet trainer. The type has served through over 200 total examples across the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy since its introduction in 1968. Design work was held out of Bangalore in 1961 and a first flight was had on September 4th, 1964.

The Kiran emerged from an IAF requirement calling for an intermediate/advanced jet trainer capable of preparing Indian pilots for the subtleties of high performance, jet-powered flight. This led to an aircraft of largely conventional design sporting unswept, low-mounted monoplane wings, a single-finned tail arrangement and a tricycle undercarriage. Its crew numbered two and were arranged in a wide cockpit offering side-by-side seating with good vision around the forward section of the aircraft. The cockpit was situated well-forward in the design and aft of a short nosecone assembly. Having passed its tests and evaluation phase, the design was adopted for service under the "Kiran" name with initial models designated "Mk I".

HAL manufactured 24 preproduction Mk I models with deliveries coming in 1968 and 118 further Mk I aircraft followed. These early series models were outfitted with the British Bristol (Rolls-Royce) "Viper" turbojet engine and lacked underwing hardpoints for weapons training. The latter was rectified through the Mk IA which resulted in 72 built to this standard, now featuring two hardpoints under each wing for rocket pods, conventional drop stores and / or machine gun pods to fulfill a light attack function. Additionally, they were plumbed for fuel delivery by way of jettisonable external tanks. Official Indian Air Force Academy service entry of the Mk I was in 1973 and a small stock also fell to the Indian Navy.

As completed, the Mk IA carried the Viper turbojet of 2,500 lb thrust output. Its maximum speed reached 430 miles per hour with cruising speeds being around 200 mph. The listed service ceiling was 30,000 feet.

The Mk II was an improved model outfitted with the Rolls-Royce "Orpheus" engine of 4,200 lb thrust. A prototype went airborne for the first time on July 30th, 1976 and added two 7.62mm ADEN machine guns in the nose as well as updated hydraulics. The new jet was both a better performance and better hauler over the original but it's loaded range and night capabilities limited interest to the point that development of the model did not officially conclude until 1983. Sixty-one Mk II aircraft then arrived beginning in March of 1985 and deliveries continued until 1989. Again the Indian Navy received some (six) Mk II models.

The Kiran series is currently set to be replaced by the in-development HAL HJY-36 series advanced trainers which is a much more modern alternative. Both are the product of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) of India.

HAL HJT-16 Kiran IA Specifications

Service Year: 1968
Type: Intermediate-Advanced Trainer / Light Attack Aircraft
National Origin: India
Manufacturer(s): Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) - India
Total Production: 203

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 2
Overall Length: 34.78 feet (10.6 meters)
Overall Width: 35.10 feet (10.70 meters)
Overall Height: 11.94 feet (3.64 meters)

Weight (Empty): 5,644 lb (2,560 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 9,337 lb (4,235 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 1 x Rolls-Royce Viper turbojet developing 2,500 lb of thrust.

Maximum Speed: 375 knots (432 mph; 695 kph)
Maximum Range: 402 nautical miles (463 miles; 745 km)
Service Ceiling: 30,020 feet (9,150 meters; 5.69 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload

2 x 500 lb conventional drop bombs
2 x SNEB rocket pods (7 x 68mm rockets each)
2 x 7.62mm gun pods
2 x Jettisonable fuel drop tanks

Kiran Mk.II:
2 x 7.62mm ADEN machine guns in nose

Global Operators (Customers, Users)


Model Variants

Kiran ("Ray of Light") - Base Series Name
Kiran Mk.I - Basic trainer fitted with the Rolls-Royce Viper turbojet engine; 24 preproduction models with 118 production examples following.
Kiran Mk.IA - Armed basic trainer fitted with four underwing hardpoints; 72 examples delivered to this standard.
Kiran Mk.II - Improved Kiran; fitted with Rolls-Royce Orpheus engine for increased performance; four underwing hardpoints; 2 x nose-mounted 7.62mm ADEN machine guns.