Brunei is expected to begin finalising a $300 million deal for British Aerospace Hawk 100/200 advanced trainer/light-combat aircraft, following a long-awaited agreement with the UK on the weapon and sensor fit for three new warships.

The Sultan of Brunei has re-affirmed his intention to order an undisclosed number of Hawks for the Royal Brunei Armed Force's (RBAF) Air Wing. It is understood from defence sources that the order will initially total ten aircraft - six single-seat Hawk 200s and four tandem-seat 100 trainers. The deal includes spares and training.

Brunei's embryonic Air Wing, which until recently was largely confined to helicopter operations, plans to use the aircraft as a lead-in to the eventual acquisition of a lightweight fighter early in the next century. The 400-strong force is in the process of receiving four Pilatus PC-7 trainers as a first step.

Delivery dates for the Hawks remain unclear and are likely to be complicated by Brunei's recent decision to build a new air base for the aircraft. The RBAF had originally planned to base the aircraft at Bandar Seri Begawan Airport, but Brunei's civil-aviation ministry objected. Construction of a purpose-built site further to the south-west may take three to five years.

The Hawk negotiations had been on hold while Brunei's procurement office tried to finalise its purchase of three corvettes from the GEC-Marconi-owned Yarrow shipyard in the UK. GEC and BAe had been pressing for the key contracts to supply the ships' command and control, radar and missiles, but faced opposition from within the Brunei administration.

Rival Dutch, French and US manufacturers had been lobbying strongly for the work. The US Government had already initiated a notification and approval process to supply Brunei with McDonnell Douglas RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles and Raytheon RIM-7M vertical-launch Sea Sparrow surface-to-air-missiles.

The RBAF has opted for the BAe vertical-launch Sea Wolf missile and GEC Nautis command-and-control system and radar.

Source: Flight International