Despite a current slim order backlog, BAE Systems believes the next few years could see its Hawk advanced trainer win a series of orders that would substantially extend the aircraft's production life.

The company has just 12 Hawks for South Africa in its orderbook and was reported last month (Flight International, January 12-19) as urgently seeking a deal with the UK Ministry of Defence to bring forward an anticipated order for up to 30 of the type to prevent closure of the production line.

However, Dave Potter, BAE Systems' head of sales, Hawk, remains bullish about prospects for the aircraft, pointing to no fewer than eight current sales campaigns.

Apart from the potential UK order, Hawk is being offered in Canada, India, Slovakia, Malaysia, Finland and South Africa (a further buy).

One of the smallest, but most imminent, orders is likely to come from North America, where the 18 Hawk Mk 115s in the Nato Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) scheme are operating at capacity, says the company. Hungary's recent decision to send trainee pilots there should require an extra few aircraft and BAE Systems is confident the total will increase further as more nations take advantage of Canada's extensive training airspace.

A further potential Canadian order could come from re-equipping the national aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, which has recently had its nine, long-serving Canadair CT-114 Tutors grounded. Canada last month requested tenders for replacements, although this could be for as few as four aircraft; other candidates include Boeing CF-18 Hornets or Raytheon T-6 Harvards, both types in service in Canada.

By contrast, the largest potential order, from India, remains stalled by that country's latest political corruption row, which led to a freeze on outstanding military contracts. There are signs that the logjam may be starting to ease but that still leaves the labyrinthine Indian bureaucracy to negotiate.

Potter admits that the Hawk's longevity can cause problems: "We have to confess that there's a perception in the market that Hawk is an old aircraft.

"One of our challenges is to make sure people know what we've done with the Hawk. The aircraft that went into service with the Royal Air Force bears no resemblance to what we are selling today."

While the Series 100 Hawk has won several important orders, Potter admits that the radar-equipped Hawk 200 is on the back-burner: "We don't have customers knocking on our door; we would do it if there was a market need."

Source: Flight Daily News