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IAF to buy 40 more Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers

Navy to follow with 17

 
By Gulshan Luthra and Air Marshal Ashok Goel (Retd) Published : February 2008
 
 

New Delhi. The Indian Air Force (IAF) will buy 40 more Hawk Advanced Jet trainers (AJTs).

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F H Major told India Strategic that IAF's original plan was to induct 122 AJTs but the acquisition got delayed by nearly a quarter of the century, and when the deal was signed in March 2004, it was only for 66 aircraft.

IAF needs more AJTs, and they would be acquired in accordance with the emerging requirements and acquisition of newer medium and air dominance fighters, he said.

Of the 66 AJTs that IAF has contracted to buy from the British BAE Systems, 24 are being acquired in a flyaway condition and the rest in Semi Knocked Down (SKD) and Completely Knocked Down (CKD) kits for progressive manufacture within India using indigenous components.

BAE Systems has already begun transferring technology and equipment to the public sector aviation giant HAL at its Bangalore facility under the deal.

Naval sources indicated that the Indian Navy was also acquiring the same Hawks to maintain commonality with IAF, rather than its navalized T-45 Goshawk version built by the US Boeing company in collaboration with the BAE Systems.

The Goshawk imparts actual aircraft carrier training, but the Indian Navy has opted to prefer the Hawk, and is likely to buy 16 to 20 of these aircraft. The figure mentioned though is for 17 Hawks.

The US Navy has trained several Indian Navy pilots on Goshawks since 2006 at its Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida.

The Indian naval Hawks would be modified slightly for simulated carrier landings, but on the ground.
The Navy should be expecting its Gorshkov aircraft carrier from Russia in two to three years along with Mig 29K aircraft, and training of the pilots for them has to commence well in time. It takes five years to train a fighter pilot from the induction stage.

Air Chief Marshal Major said that while the future requirements would be defined with emerging needs, both the air force and navy would place order for the newer jets with HAL, which is tasked with indigenous manufacture.

He described the Hawk 132 that India is buying to its specifications as an excellent aircraft. Pointing out to its ultra-modern glass cockpit, he said that a pilot trained on a Hawk could easily walk into another modern aircraft like the SU 30, or the coming Medium-Multi Role Combat Jets without much conversion training.

The Air Chief described training as a very important element of combat, pointing out that today, every system from radar to missiles to aircraft was coming with simulators.

He said that the IAF Flying Training Establishment (FTE) at Bidar, the designated home of the Hawks in Karnataka, was a futuristic flight training academy with new equipment and a 9000 feet runway, much different than it was just a few years ago.

All the 66 aircraft would be based there.

"Framing of the flying and operating procedures in the local flying area will take top priority," according to Air Officer Commanding Air Commodore Ramesh Rai.

The first two twin-seater Hawks had reached Bidar on November 12, flown by a mix crew of BAE Systems and IAF pilots from BAE Systems’ Technical Training Academy at Warton in UK. After some preliminary formalities, instructor's conversion began on them right away.

Wg Cdr Pankaj Jain and Sqd Ldr Tarun Hindwani were the first two pilots to land the aircraft in India at Jamnagar, from where they moved to Bidar.

By Feb-end, 10 of the newer gleaming jets would at this base. BAE Systems and HAL are scheduled to complete supply of all the 66 aircraft by 2011.

According to Air Marshal Satish Inamdar (Retd), who had worked on the AJT project, India could eventually acquire or build at least 200 of the Hawk jets. “They have potential for growth in line with modernisation of the Indian Air Force.”
It may be noted that IAF suffered several accidents in the late 1970s and early 1980s as fighter pilots graduated from basic jet trainers to the supersonic Mig 21 without intermediary - or Stage III - training. When the then Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh, drew prime minister Indira Gandhi's attention to it, she immediately called for action.

Due to political and bureaucratic delays, their supplies have only begun now.

Air Chief Marshal Major said that IAF had trained 12 instructors and 75 pilots in Britain, and that all of them had excelled in flying.

BAE Systems Managing Director Training Solutions, Mark Parkinson, says that the British firm also trained 100 engineers.

A company statement quoted him as saying: 'We have completed conversion training of experienced IAF Flying Instructors to become instructor pilots on the Indian Hawk - these instructors are returning to India to train the Indian Air Force's next generation of frontline pilots.'

BAE Systems sold more that US$ 27 billion worth of military hardware and services in 2006.

 
     
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