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IAF reluctant to follow on order for Hawk trainer

Ravi Sharma

BANGALORE: Worried over shortcomings in product support from BAE systems, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), issues over maintenance and a price considered too steep, the Indian Air Force (IAF) appears reluctant to go ahead with the follow-on order for the Hawk trainer.

The IAF, through a $1.75-billion contract signed in March 2004, is receiving 66 Hawk Mk 132 advanced jet trainers. Of these, BAE Systems has supplied 24 in direct supply mode, while the remaining 42 are being assembled from semi knocked down and completely knocked down kits — progressively using indigenous components — at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bangalore. HAL is contracted to assemble all the 42 Hawks by 2011. The aircraft entered service at Air Force Station Bidar, Karnataka, in February 2008.

Apprehensions

In January 2008, the IAF prevailed upon the government to allow it go in for a further batch of 57 Hawks, with 17 of them being for the Navy. But the IAF now appears to have apprehensions over the follow-on order. The aircraft in the follow-on order were to have been indigenously assembled by HAL, with product and technical support from the OEM.

Highly placed sources told The Hindu that the slow pace of deliveries from HAL, tardy product support from BAE Systems and poor serviceability had led to the IAF’s rethink.

The IAF which had to pull out all stops before BAE Systems rectified a number of technical and spares-related issues especially on the initial batch of Hawks, is also worried over the price being quoted by HAL for the follow-on order. HAL officials said the company had indicated the prices taking into effect inputs on spares, technical help and product support from OEMs BAE Systems and Rolls Royce (for the engine).

Refusing to comment on the price issue, a spokesperson for BAE Systems said that all the pricing details had been provided to HAL. Commenting on problems over spares for the direct supply of Hawks, he said BAE Systems had “delivered all the spares that had been contracted for.”

The IAF would like HAL to indigenously develop an AJT, a natural follow on to the Intermediate Jet Trainer that is being built.

At Aero India 2009 here, M. Natarajan, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, also announced the development of a lead-in-fighter-trainer quite similar to South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle. He told The Hindu that the trainer which will be a derivative of the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas would be far superior to the Hawk and could be flying in five to six years.

The Hawks allow trainee pilots to make the transition from flying sub sonic to super sonic aircraft and are being used by the IAF for its fighter training programme.

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