The BAE Systems, Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT), specifically tailored to meet the requirements of the Indian Air Force, is a cut above the version used by the Royal Air Force for training its fighter pilots, a senior BAE Systems official told Hindustan Times from Warton in the UK.
Mike Rudd, head of Hawk's global sales, said in a telephonic interview on Saturday that the two versions have "similar flying characteristics" but the Hawk designed for the IAF has a far modern cockpit environment. Designated HT001, the first of the 66 Hawk AJTs being purchased by India took to the skies for its maiden flight from Warton on Thursday.
The first 24 aircraft are being built by BAE Systems while the remaining 42 will be manufactured under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Rudd said the first Hawk would be delivered to India in September 2007 after conducting some more flight trials to develop full capability. "It provides a training platform that is closely matched to the demands of the next generation of aircraft."
The defence and aerospace company has already shipped fuselages of additional aircraft that will be assembled by HAL in India. It has also delivered over 1,500 tonnes of raw material, 3,500 tools and around 15 million components to HAL.
Air Chief Marshal AY Tipnis (retd), a former IAF chief, told HT the Hawks would give the IAF a strong grounding in flight training and provide a further boost to the air force's already shining flight safety records. India had signed a contract with BAE Systems in March 2004 for acquiring Hawk AJTs.
The contract also comprises ground based training systems, associated support and interim pilot training at RAF Valley in Wales. So far 40 Indian pilots have successfully undergone this training.
The first set of Hawks will be manufactured at HAL with major components supplied from the UK. Rudd said the degree of indigenisation would increase progressively.