BAE Systems has expressed its disappointment at being eliminated from the UAE’s trainer contest. The decision came as a shock to BAE, which had received positive-sounding predictions of a purchase of new aircraft from the UAE Air Force, and already has a large installed presence in the UAE, with 13 Hawk 102s, 20 Hawk 63s and nine Hawk 61s based at Al Ain and Minhad.

BAE announced the shock news to its Military Air Solutions employees on October 29, but said it had not received a detailed explanation for the UAEAF’s decision, beyond a terse statement to the effect that the Hawk did not meet the UAE’s specific training requirement.

While there has been speculation that the Hawk did not meet UAEAF aspirations for a robust frontline operational capability, or even that the air force wanted a “shiny new jet”, the truth may be more uncomfortable for BAE Systems.

According to some sources, who suggest that the UAE had “not enjoyed the greatest experience with the Hawk,” and that they “did not feel well supported” though this was as much the fault of the air force for not putting in place proper support contracts as it was of BAE Systems. Others suggest that “the UAE debacle was the result of inadequate preparation for the evaluation, and of failing to place the right emphasis on the aircraft”.

Mike Rudd, BAE’s New Business Director, Training Solutions (formerly head of Hawk sales) energetically denied the charge of poor support, pointing out that since GAMCO (now Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies) took over responsibility for maintenance at the beginning of the year “the Hawk has met all of the customer’s requirements for availability.”

Rudd pointed out that this was the first competition that the Hawk has ever lost. A total of 911 Hawks have been sold, and the aircraft has been responsible for training more than 12,000 pilots.

“Clearly we are disappointed by this acquisition decision, but the Hawk will continue as a key part of the UAE air force training solution for at least five years, and we will support and sustain the aircraft through their lives. This doesn’t affect our commitment to through life support one bit.”

“The Hawk has witnessed selections by some of the World’s major air forces, and is the best, and lowest risk, advanced jet training platform available. At our recent Hawk users group meeting, there was no fundamental criticism of the aircraft in a week of intensive discussions. New generation Hawks have already graduated pilots in Australia and Bahrain, and the first classes are going through in South Africa, while the competitors are still largely unproven.”

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Source: Flight Daily News