Bangalore: India’s state-owned aircraft maker Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) will produce 57 additional Hawk advanced jet trainers, under licence from British defence contractor BAE Systems Plc., for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the navy.
IAF requires 40 new trainers while the navy has sought 17 trainers for pilots before they fly supersonic fighters such as MiG-21 and Sukhoi 30 MkI.
“There is (already) huge investment in India for the Hawks. Producing them here makes sense,” said M. Fakruddin, director (corporate planning and marketing), HAL.
In 2004, HAL had signed a contract of around Rs8,000 crore for 66 Hawk trainers from BAE Systems. Under the deal, BAE Systems would supply 24 Hawks in flyaway condition, with the remaining 42 aircraft to be made under a technology transfer licence in HAL’s Bangalore factory. HAL has?invested?more?than Rs1,500 crore in the facility. While the first locally made Hawk would be delivered to IAF in March, the road map is to deliver all the 42 aircraft by 2011.
In 2004, HAL had scrapped a project for a homegrown combat attack trainer or advanced jet trainer that doubles as a fighter, after IAF declined approval. IAF had said it would be difficult to have inventory of multiple trainers.
In November, the first two British-built Hawks arrived in India and these will be used for stage III training to the newly commissioned IAF pilots at Bidar, Karnataka. While the airframe and engines would be produced locally for the Hawk trainer, systems such as avionics, radars and controls would be imported from BAE Systems and its partners.
Analysts say IAF had initially estimated a requirement of more than 100 advanced jet trainers, but had placed orders for only 66 Hawks in 2004 due to budget constraints. “It’s (also) good to go for staggered purchase,” said Air Marshal B.K. Pandey, a former head of training at IAF in Bangalore. “You get upgraded version (of the aircraft), possibly at lower cost,” he added.
On 1 January, Mint had reported that HAL and BAE were holding talks to set up a joint venture (JV) firm to manufacture the Hawk jet trainers in India for the global market.
Both firms are doing a feasibility study for the JV. “If there is a solid business case to support it (the JV), we will go ahead,” said a BAE spokesperson.