BRUNEI IS ON the brink of concluding a long-awaited initial order for ten British Aerospace Hawk 100/200 advanced-trainer/ light-strike aircraft.

The Hawk will be "entering service shortly", according to a statement made by the Sultan of Brunei during a visit to his country by the Royal Air Force's Red Arrows aerobatic team. Local defence sources, however, suggest that the first aircraft is unlikely to be delivered before 1998, which is when the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) air base now under construction at Bandar Seri Begawan International Airport is expected to be completed. BAe also requires between 24 and 28 months to produce new Hawks.

Long-running negotiations with BAe have been under way since the UK Government signed a defence memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Brunei in 1988. The deal has been partially held up the RBAF's lack of a suitable fixed-wing base for the Hawk.

The Hawk purchase is the latest in a series of extensively planned, but delayed, defence procurements which are being activated. The move follows the signing of a second UK-Brunei MoU in 1995, providing a framework for new-equipment procurements.

The numbers of aircraft in the RBAF's planned purchase have varied over the past seven years between 16 and six. The initial batch of ten single- and tandem-seat Hawks is viewed as adequate for the RBAF's pool of Royal Air Force-qualified pilots.

BAe, meanwhile, has completed the first Hawk 100 for the Indonesian air force and will deliver the aircraft in May. The aircraft will remain at Warton, in the UK in the interim, for Indonesian-qualified flight-instructor training. Indonesia ordered 24 Hawk 100/200s in 1993 and has outstanding options for a further 20 aircraft.

Source: Flight International