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By Bulbul Singh

05 Jan 08. As part of India-United Kingdom initiatives to enhance defence ties, India’s sole aircraft manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and BAE Systems of United Kingdom are studying possibility of Joint venture for overseas market to produce the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer.

A senior HAL official confirmed that an MoU has been signed last month between HAL and BAE Systems to study the feasibility of a joint partnership between the two countries. The report will be available within six months after which the two entities will discus the issue of equity and other financial aspects. A diplomat in the British Embassy in New Delhi said, UK aerospace industry has had a long association with India in military aircraft adding that the relationship will grow in the years to come. On a possible BAE-HAL joint venture partnership the diplomat said talks are on adding that the two entities already have a good long-term association.

Another executive of HAL said, talks are on with BAE Systems to form a Joint Venture for the repair, maintenance and even co-production of the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer for further export in the region. The two companies are currently carrying out cost-effective studies on the possibility of co-production of the Hawk and other military aircraft in collaboration with BAE Systems. The Indian defence market was opened to private companies including foreign companies in 2001. HAL and BAE Systems contracted in March 2004 to supply 66 Hawk MK 132 AJTs to the Indian Air Force. As part of the contract a total of 24 will be built at Brough; six in kit form will assembled in India; while the remaining 36, will be built in India. A total of 300 HAL employees will receive familiarization training at Brough in the run up to the license production of the trainer while another 100 IAF engineers will be trained at Warton Training facilities as part of the contract. The Indian Air Force took the delivery of the first two Hawks in November last year. These Hawks are flying on Indian avionics developed by HAL. More Indian systems will be incorporated when the Hawk trainer is license produced at Indian facilities, said the HAL executive. A senior Indian defence ministry official said, a proposal has been received from the Indian Air Force to allow pilots to be trained at BAE Pilot Training facilities in the United Kingdom. The official said, the first two pilots who were trained at BAE pilot training facilities were trained to fly the Russian SU30 MKI aircraft back home. The official however refused to confirm or deny on any possible joint venture partnership program between BAE and HAL. He added that in case such a proposal is submitted by HAL it will be considered.
The HAL executive added that a Joint Venture partnership between BAE and HAL will help in the production of the homegrown Intermediate Jet Trainer by HAL which already has several British contents. The executive refused to give details on this.

BAE Systems and HAL already have a partnership of over 20 years after India took delivery of around 140 Jaguar strike fighter aircraft in the 1980’s. HAL has been maintaining and upgrading the Jaguar aircraft.
BAE and HAL already have a joint venture in software named BAeHAL Software founded in 1993. The company located in Bangalore is providing software services to Indian and global customers on BAe aircrafts. The United Kingdom aerospace industry already provides major product support to the Jaguars, Avros, with the Indian Air Force, and the Sea King helicopters and Harrier aircraft with the Indian Navy.

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