Government-controlled Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is looking to aggressively market the upgraded Advanced Hawk trainer jets — jointly developed by HAL and BAE Systems of the UK — to foreign buyers, given the “rather tepid response” from the Indian Air Force for which the jets were initially intended. “We are looking to target friendly countries of both India and the UK, with India (HAL) priming the orders,” official sources said. Sources indicated that both parties were of the opinion that there existed a potential market for the Advanced Hawk, which made its debut at Aero India 2017 in Bengaluru. A recent bribery scandal involving Rolls-Royce, which makes engines for the Hawk aircraft, has placed any “fresh orders from the Indian forces under a shadow”. India is the largest operator of the Hawk in the world. Besides being offered as an enhanced capability trainer to larger forces, the aircraft is also being marketed as an affordable light-combat aircraft choice for smaller air forces. “The potential customers of the Advanced Hawk are any air force that is looking to purchase a next version of the Hawk. The aim of showcasing it at Aero India was to stimulate interest,” sources added. Work on the Advanced Hawk has been going on for over two years, and both HAL and BAE have pooled resources to ensure the combat role-capable trainer jet can also carry smart weapons. Pointing to some of the innovations in the Advanced Hawk, sources said the slatted wings produce a significant increase in the plane’s performance and agility, as also ensure shorter take-offs and landings. It also has new sensors and weapons, including a helmet-mounted display for the pilot, a first for an aircraft derived from a trainer. BAE and HAL signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2015 “to jointly explore opportunities to develop and export markets.” It also included fleet supports for the Hawk and the Jaguar. Sources added: “One of the outcomes of the MoU was the display of the Advanced Hawk at Aero India this year. The joint development of the Hawk was to showcase the next potential version.”
HAL is also said to be “priming a RFP (Request For Procurement) of 20 Hawks for the Surya Kiran aerobatic team of the IAF.” Sources said: “BAE is the supplier to HAL in the RFP. The Surya Kiran team has flown the Hawk utilising aircraft from the existing fleet of the IAF. HAL is priming, and BAE has submitted its proposal for the supply of equipment and services to HAL.” Currently, the IAF operates around 123 Hawk Mk132 jets that provide Stage-III training before pilot’s progress to operational fighters such as Mirage 2000, MiG-29, Su-30MKI or Jaguar. The IAF and the Indian Navy have been flying the Hawk Mk132 variants for training, with over 1 lakh flying hours.