The Indian air force's purchase of BAE Hawk trainers should improve its safety record and operational effectiveness. Training is already under way in the UK

It took almost two decades to agree the terms for India's 2004 purchase of 66 BAE Systems Hawk 132Y advanced jet trainers (AJT), but within weeks of the deal being signed, the first Indian air force pilots started training in the UK, where three courses are now under way.

The Indian air force's Hawk 132Y fleet will be of dual nationality, with the first 24 aircraft to be built at BAE's Brough site in the UK and the remaining 42 to be manufactured by Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). The first 13 Hawks are now in production in the UK, and HAL is working to establish its production capability for the aircraft by assisting in the manufacture of the first 24 trainers. "The programme and the contract is on track," says BAE.

India signed a Hawk contract worth around $1.3 billion early last year and will receive its first aircraft in March 2007 under the long-planned acquisition (Flight International, 30 March – 5 April 2004). Deliveries are expected to conclude around 2013, with the deal also covering the provision of an initial 25-year support package from industry; BAE and HAL are discussing a possible tie-up to jointly deliver this element of the AJT programme. India's Hawks will be powered by the Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour 871 turbofan with full-authority digital engine control and a thrust rating of 5,800lb (25.4kN). HAL is to support the powerplant's introduction into Indian service. Next year the company marks its 60th year of partnership with R-R.

As part of the hard-won Hawk deal, the UK is providing initial training services for 75 Indian air force pilots over a three-and-a-half-year period at the Royal Air Force's Valley air base in Anglesey, Wales. Managed by BAE's Customer Solutions & Support business unit, training on the RAF's Hawk T1/1A fleet began in July 2004 and, by last month, three courses had been launched at the site according to George Mackay, a senior military adviser to the UK government's Defence Export Services Organisation, which backed BAE's Hawk India campaign over a number of years. The instruction of pilots in the UK is an important stage in the Indian air force's transformation, along with the enhanced capabilities offered by the Hawk over the ageing trainers it will replace. By closing the gap between the air force's trainers and its advanced fighters, the service hopes to improve both its safety record and its operational capabilities.

Concluding in late 2007 under the current government-to-government arrangement, the UK-based instruction of Indian pilots is being conducted using a tailored syllabus that roughly mirrors the system used to train the UK's RAF and Royal Navy fast-jet pilots at Valley. The course starts with a period of ground school, followed by the use of synthetic training devices, including simulators, before flight activities culminate with weapons delivery during the advanced phase of the Hawk training programme.

Students on the first course have already completed the advanced stage and moved on to a tactics training phase, says Mackay. A second course is progressing well, he adds, and a third has recently moved from ground school to begin using Valley's BAE-operated Hawk Synthetic Training System. "The students are hard working and have settled in extremely well," says Mackay, who describes the training arrangement as "a new era in Indian air force/RAF co-operation".

Advanced model

Underlining the strength of this relationship and the continued importance of the Indian contract to its future jet training business, BAE sent its Hawk 100-series demonstrator to Bangalore to participate in last month's Aero India air show and gave Indian air force chief of staff Air Marshal S P Tyagi the opportunity to fly the aircraft.

BAE hopes its success in securing the Hawk India contract and in delivering an aircraft with transformational training capabilities will lead to follow-on business in the country. In the short term, the Hawk could be considered for the Indian air force's prestigious Suryakiran display team, which needs a new fleet of aircraft to replace its current HAL-built Kiran trainers, says Tyagi. HAL's developmental HJT-36 intermediate jet trainer is another likely candidate. "But our first priority is training," he says.

Looking further ahead, industry partner HAL plans to build on its experience in manufacturing the Hawk to take on BAE in the Indian market – and potentially further afield. HAL used the Aero India show to unveil its early design for a rival to the market-leading Hawk, dubbed the HJT-39 combat aircraft trainer, or CAT (Flight International, 15-21 February). "It is not a question of co-existing with the Hawk," says HAL chairman Ashok Baweja. "There is a level above the Hawk and we see a future requirement for this type of aircraft." The CAT system is already being promoted to the Indian air force as a possible solution to its long-term AJT requirements, he says.

The eternally youthful Hawk has evolved continuously since it entered service in the UK almost 30 years ago, but BAE will find it no easier to sell additional examples to India than it was to secure the current AJT deal. -

Source: Flight International