Hawk aircraft proposals to feature in Modi’s talks in London - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 10 November 2015

Hawk aircraft proposals to feature in Modi’s talks in London

By Ajai Shukla
HAL, Bengaluru
Business Standard, 11th Nov 15

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his visit to the United Kingdom this week, will cite the growing cooperation between UK-headquartered BAE Systems, and Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

Together, BAE Systems and HAL have created a major assembly line for the Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT) in Bengaluru, which has built for the Indian Air Force (IAF) the world’s largest Hawk fleet outside the UK. The IAF has already bought 123 Hawks (of which 17 remain to be delivered), and is wrapping up negotiations for another order of 20 Hawks.

Government sources say this 20-Hawk purchase, to equip the IAF’s reputed aerobatics team, will figure in statements emerging from Mr Modi’s meetings with his British counterpart, David Cameron.

British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond has already declared: “Hawk trainers will be one of the subjects within the defence package we will want to talk about.”

The buzz around the Hawk goes far beyond the order for 20 aircraft. Given the size of the Hawk fleet in this region, BAE Systems and HAL signed a three-part memorandum of understanding (MoU) in May, which transfers much of the Hawk’s future to Bengaluru.

“The MoU has three proposals. First, providing better fleet support to the IAF’s Hawks. Second, upgrading the IAF’s Hawk fleet to make them better trainers. Third, co-developing and building an advanced version of the Hawk that could be exported from India worldwide,” says HAL chief, T Suvarna Raju.

Hawk maintenance

The first part of the MoU involves setting up maintenance and repair facilities, and a warehouse full of Hawk spares in India to respond instantaneously and slash downtime.

This would establish India as a regional hub for Hawks, not just for the IAF’s 143 aircraft, but also another 351 Hawks in the neighbourhood. These include 33 Hawks in Australia; 60 in Indonesia, 20 in South Korea, 28 in Malaysia, 12 in Kenya, 13 in Zimbabwe, 24 in South Africa, 12 in Kuwait, 25 in Oman, 72 in Saudi Arabia, 46 in UAE and six in Bahrain.

“What we are looking at… is (establishing) a big warehouse in India full of regular use Indian Hawk and Jaguar components for the IAF and the Navy. When they need a part, it would be delivered to the point of use in less than thirty days… So it’s a much more responsive supply chain solution to manage the fleet”, says Dave Corfield, who heads BAE Systems’ Hawk India division,

Raju confirms “the warehouse would be managed by a joint venture company (JV), in which HAL and BAE Systems would have equal shares.”

BAE Systems and HAL have proposed that maintenance of India’s Hawks could take the form of “performance based logistics”, in which the JV would guarantee the IAF a certain number of Hawks on the flight line everyday. The IAF, however, has not yet decided on this.

Upgrade to Hawk Mk 132 Plus

The second part of the BAE-HAL MoU relates to upgrading the IAF’s Hawk fleet that is completing ten years in service. BAE Systems and HAL refer to the proposed upgrade as Hawk Mk 132 Plus.

“We came out to India and briefed Air Headquarters on what is technically feasible for an upgrade to the Mk 132 to provide more operational capability”, says Corfield.

The IAF’s Hawk Mk 132 is less capable than the versions acquired by UK, Oman, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. It is powered by the Rolls-Royce Adour 871 engine, which provides 1,000 pounds less thrust than the Adour 951 engine on the other Hawks.

While retaining the present engine, the Mk 132 Plus would get improved avionics for better training student pilots. Corfield says data-links would create the illusion of flying with radar: “The instructor in the back seat can manipulate scenarios that make the student feel there is an ‘air-to-air’ or ‘air-to-ground’ missile lock (on his Hawk); and he would take action to try and break that lock.”

The other enhancements proposed for the Mk 132 Plus include nose-wheel steering, in-flight refuelling, on-board oxygen generating systems, twin mission computers, night vision compatible cockpits, ground proximity warning systems and traffic collision avoidance system.

Dream Hawk

The most ambitious part of the BAE-HAL agreement involves building an advanced version of the Hawk, which could be used beyond combat training as a light, manoeuvrable fighter that could operate in the narrow valleys of India’s Himalayan frontier, where high-performance fighters cannot turn.

“We have done extensive modeling of the performance of this type of aircraft in the northern Himalayan theatre. It can do close air support in the valleys of the northern Himalayas. We see excellent air-to-ground performance; we are not pitching this as an air-to-air fighter”, says Corfield.

Raju says this aircraft, which is currently unnamed, but is referred to as the Dream Hawk, or the Advanced Combat Hawk, would be built in Bengaluru, using the same assembly line as the IAF Hawks, and exported from here. The IAF has not expressed interest yet, but the export market --- including countries like Afghanistan that cannot afford high-performance fighters --- offers prospects.

“HAL and BAE Systems have done an analysis of potential customers around the globe… We see a demand in the accessible market for about 300 airplanes”, says Corfield.

HAL plans to build the Dream Hawk’s mission computer --- the heart of its avionics package. Meanwhile BAE Systems has already designed a high-lift wing, which will allow the aircraft to operate from shorter airfields.

BAE Systems and HAL plan to display a demonstrator prototype of the Dream Hawk at Aero India 2017 and, immediately after that, the aircraft will start its flight-test programme. The project cost will be shared fifty-fifty between BAE Systems and HAL. 


  1. Surprising turn of events. I remember reading on this blog a couple of years back that HAL was facing a lot of issues "integrating" (read screw driving) the Hawks and had alleged that BAE was not supplying the right "kits" with the right quality levels to HAL which also led to a crash of a Hawk.

    This goes to show what could have made this blog a Bill Sweetman level blog-instead of just going with the way the wind is blowing-efforts could have been made to understand what was causing this issue 2-3 years back and how it has been resolved and deeper analysis on what is HAL currently doing in the Hawk production line. Is it just "integrating" kits? Are any LRU's being made in India? Is the Adour jet engine being made in India (given than India has made Adour engine earlier)? What is the availability rate of the Hawk in IAF service?

    sad because your Arjun articles demonstrated this level of analysis.

  2. Interesting prospect.

  3. Side track comment below -

    I am curious to know what is the level of our ability to indegenously develop power plants for our Big Ticket fighting equipment.

    For Fixed Wing Jets, my understanding is all the engines are foreign. None have been developed indegenously. I also understand if we have more than enough engines it will indirectly allow for more flying time for our pilots, which will allow for a more experienced Pilot corps.

    Also the conventional powerplants for our Naval ships are non indegenous. Im not sure about the powerplants of our armored fighting vehicles are developed indegenously.

    In the rotary wing aircraft, I understand LCH,LUH,ALH these are using a Shakti engine which is a JV between Turbomeca and HAL, but if push comes to shove will be able to develop these engines by ourselves ?

    Otherwise, will some one please cut a deal with whoever it is to gain some TOT on engine technology. It has been the one thing that we are almost completely relying on Foreign nations. For a nation which has a metallurgical wonder as our embelem (ashok stambh) im sure we can find that elusive alloy, that is located in the center of jet engine to withstand extreme high temperatures, via greater research or via trade.

    I hope I am completely inaccurate in my assertion and am corrected. Thanks.

  4. pipe dream... sitara hub...

  5. So, Russian display team flies Sukhois, American display team flies F-16 and F-18s, Chinese display team flies J-10s but Indian display team will fly British Hawks?? Air display teams generate interest in the local industry and entice the audience to think better of the aircraft and pilots. But here it seems a free advertisement for BAE and not for any Indian product.

    Who are they displaying to? What is the gain out of it? What is this Hawk going to do which LCA Tejas cannot do? And wouldn't this extra 20 aircraft be an additional order for the local Tejas aircraft factory? If the cost per hour is an issue, then why not go for the cheapest aircraft - Pilatus PC-7? They are also used in display teams.

    Instead of using Tejas for the Indian display team, the Imported Air Force is showing its infatuation by even importing the aircraft for its display team !!! The lasting impression after a display of this kind would be - Oh! Indian pilots are good but pity! India can't make an aircraft of any kind !!!

  6. This must be combat hawk. Makes a lot if sense to buy it rather than expensive Rafale. Rafale role most probably can be performed by SU-30 loaded with Brhmos/Nirbhay.

    We need to balance our airforce with more single jet engine planes. Even US has more F-16s than expensive F-15s.
    Whatever su-30 we have should suffice.

  7. The use of hawk as a CAS aircraft is quite a sound idea. The IAF should look at bringing these in early to augument its reduced fleet and improve sortie rates


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