India seeks extra Hawks

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India plans to buy a further 57 BAE Systems Hawk advanced jet trainers for its air force and navy, adding to the 66 it ordered in 2004. The aircraft will be licence-produced by Hindustan Aeronautics, which is manufacturing 42 aircraft from the original order.

"The Cabinet committee for security affairs will be asked to clear the deal, and it should be completed in a few months," says a source close to the defence ministry. The Indian air force requires 40 Hawks from the second order and the navy 17. The deal is expected to be worth about $870 million, with deliveries slated to begin early next decade.

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India's proposed new purchase of Hawk will add 66 examples it ordered in 2004

New Delhi will induct its first BAE-built Hawk in a ceremony later this month, and the first HAL-manufactured aircraft will be delivered in March. India inked the $1.75 billion, 66-aircraft order under a deal that took almost 20 years to complete. BAE on 4 February conducted the first flight of India's 22nd of 24 UK-built aircraft - the first Hawk ever to make its debut sortie from the company's manufacturing site in Brough, Yorkshire.

Sources close to HAL say talks between the company and BAE over a possible shift of all Hawk production to India are also continuing. "Discussions are still at the early stages. The companies are talking about forming a joint venture, and it makes sense for HAL, given that it has already invested heavily in facilities for manufacturing the Hawk," says one.

Separately, Washington and New Delhi have confirmed a $1 billion deal for six Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transports intended for India's special forces. US deputy assistant secretary of defense James Clad told Reuters: "This puts us in a new environment. With this sale, India is telling us it's ready to buy top-quality US equipment on its merits. It positions us to be in the Indian defence market for years to come."

The deals are part of a lengthy effort to rejuvenate the Indian armed forces. New Delhi has also issued a request for information to AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter, Eurocopter and Kamov for 300 utility helicopters for its air force and army. An earlier army competition for 197 helicopters was cancelled last December as it was about to be awarded to Eurocopter, which denies allegations of irregularities in the tender process.

India is also evaluating the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed F-16, Saab Gripen and Sukhoi Su-35 for a requirement for 126 medium multirole combat aircraft. It is also looking for new maritime patrol aircraft, plus heavy-lift and attack helicopters.