Indian defence minister George Fernandes has told the Indian Parliament that a deal for BAES ystems Hawk 100 advanced jet trainers is close to signing.

India's long-running Advanced JetTrainer (AJT) programme has been brought into sharp focus recently with mounting criticism of the government following a string of MikoyanMiG-21 crashes.

The Indian air force's high accident rate is often linked to a lack of suitable training aircraft, with trainee pilots expected to graduate from low performance aircraft to high performance fighters.

Fernandes told parliament that "the deal for advanced jet trainers could be finalised any day now".

He says a contract will be signed by the end of this year with deliveries between 2004 and 2014.

Reports in the Indian press quote unnamed air force sources saying that 30-45 Hawk would be acquired in an 18 billion rupee ($395 million) deal. India had been expected to acquire 66 AJTs.

Source: Flight International