AUSTRALIA HAS named British Aerospace, with its modified Hawk trainer, as the preferred tenderer for its new lead-in fighter (LIF) project .

Although details of the final package have yet to be determined, around 32-38 aircraft will be bought. The first 12 will be built in the UK, along with a fatigue-test airframe, with the rest to be assembled in Australia.

Negotiations leading to completion of the contract are scheduled to start early in 1997 and, subject to successful completion, production will start by the end of 1997, with handover of the first aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) by mid-1999. The first squadron of 12 Hawks would be ready for trainee pilots by January 2000.

One Australian source says that BAe, which offered the aircraft with the Rolls-Royce Adour, has been asked to launch a separate competition for the trainer's powerplant, with the Adour and AlliedSignal Aerospace's International Turbine F124 expected to be contenders.

The AlliedSignal engine had earlier been nominated to power the rival McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk, eliminated by the shortlisting of the BAe and Aermacchi bids. The engine has been given only one flight test in the T-45. BAe and R-R say that they are unaware of any requirement for a contest over the engine choice, and AlliedSignal declines to comment.

BAe will provide a substantially modified Hawk derivative - named the LIF Hawk - customised to meet Australia's requirements and to provide what the RAAF says is "-the best trainer currently available or likely to be available in the near future".

The LIF Hawk will have a digital cockpit based around Smiths In-dustries' displays, similar to those of its F-18s and F-111s, to train pilots in fast-jet operations and weapons-systems management.

The customised equipment will include hands-on throttle-and-stick operation and two or three colour multi-function displays. Radar simulation, provided through an air-combat-manoeuvring instrumentation system, and radar emulation, will also allow the LIF Hawk to be used for some fleet support functions previously provided by F-18s.

Apart from introductory fighter pilot training, the LIF Hawk, which will replace the RAAF's ageing Macchi 326H trainers, will be used to provide support including weapons and tactical training.

Although there was no such condition in the evaluation, BAe has recently been investing heavily in Australia's aerospace industry, including its A$50 million ($40 million) acquisition of AWA Defence Industries, and its buying of Ansett's 50% share in the Australian Air Academy at Tamworth, New South Wales.

The firm has also based its offer on strong Australian industry participation, with 16 Australian companies involved in teaming partnerships. Qantas is expected to provide engine assembly, testing, and maintenance, while Hunter Aerospace will provide on-line maintenance and support for the first support period, which covers the time between the delivery of the first and last units, and the following five years.

Source: Flight International