INDIA HUNTS GLOBAL FOR AJTS EVEN AS BAE’S HAWK DELIVERY IS MID WAY
By Bulbul Singh
30 Mar 09. India has floated Request for Information (RFI)to several overseas aerospace companies to purchase additional advance jet trainers. The RFI comes even as India is manufacturing the
Hawk Advance jet trainers under license from BAE Systems of
United Kingdom. In 2004 India signed a $ 1.4 billion deal to procure 66 Hawk trainers from overseas. Sources say the move to procure additional 40 Hawk trainers have been shelved.
Enquiries have been sent to Italy’s Alenia for the M-346, Korean T-50s, the Chez L-159, Russian YAK-130 and MiG AT Trainer, according to sources here.
India is going ahead with purchase of additional Advance Jet Trainers from the global market even as the delivery of the Hawk AJTs contracted in 2004 is midway said a senior Indian Air Force official who gave no reason for the development.
Under the $1.4bn 2004 contract state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) had also been given a license production rights. Under that deal, BAE would supply 24 Hawks in flyaway conditions, with the remaining 42 aircraft to be made under a technology transfer license at the Bangalore factory of HAL.
HAL and BAE had even carried out joint studies to manufacture Hawk in India for sale in the Indian and the global market. The study included doing repair and overhaul of the Hawk aircraft.
In April 2008 the Indian Air Force had even temporarily grounded the Hawk trainer aircraft following a crash of the new Hawk. Earlier, the Hawk fleet faced problems of spares. Even the delivery schedule of the Hawk is delayed.
Sources in the Indian defence ministry said the proposed partnership between BAE of United Kingdom and HAL to jointly build AJTs in India has also been shelved. The BAE-HAL
partnership would have killed the homegrown Intermediate Jet
Trainer programme, said a senior executive of HAL.
The executive however admitted that the cost of Hawk built at HAL was cheaper than the imported one from United Kingdom. The cost of the HAL built Hawk is around $14.2 million per aircraft while the Hawks built by British Aerospace are costing over $20.2 million.
India is also building a home-grown Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) to get powered by the Russian engine, AL-55I built by NPO Saturn of Russia.
The IJT program began in 1999 and the first flight of the IJT prototype took place in March 2003. The IJT, intended to replace the Air Force’s aging Kiran aircraft, has a top speed of 750 kilometers per hour, can carry a 1,000-kilogram weapons payload and has an operational life of 10,000 hours.
The Hawk AJT will equip pilots to fly supersonic fighters such as the frontline Mirages currently employed by the IAF which has a requirement of over 100 advanced jet trainers in the next ten years.