New Delhi: The first two Hawk advanced jet trainers (AJTs) meant to train the next generation of Indian Air Force (IAF) jet pilots have departed from the UK en-route to their new home at Air Force Station, Bidar, in India.
The two jets are the first of 66 Hawk aircraft to be delivered to the IAF as of part of a total training package required to meet the IAFs jet pilot training needs. The programme includes 24 aircraft being built in the UK by BAE Systems and 42 aircraft being manufactured under licence in India by Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
A senior Indian Air Force official said: ''The induction of the Hawk aircraft marks the fulfilment of a long pending requirement in the Indian Air Force for an Advanced Jet Trainer. The Hawk aircraft, with a proven design and advanced avionics, would bridge the gap between the performance spectrum of the Intermediate trainer and front-line fighter aircraft, which trainee pilots would finally fly in operational squadrons. As a dedicated trainer, the aircraft would greatly enhance flight safety and have a beneficial impact on the quality of training being imparted to fighter pilots.''
Mark Parkinson, managing director, Training Solutions at BAE Systems said: ''This is a proud day for everyone involved on the Indian Hawk programme. Delivering the first Indian Hawks, on time and budget, marks a significant milestone on the project. We are also particularly pleased to be delivering these exciting new aircraft to the IAF in their 75th anniversary year.''
Since the contract was signed in March 2004, the Indian Hawk programme has moved at a tremendous pace. Over the past three years, in addition to manufacturing the IAF Hawks, BAE Systems, in partnership with the RAF, has delivered a training programme that will see on its completion, over 75 IAF pilots trained on the current RAF Hawk fleet at RAF Valley.
In addition, a number of the Hawks that will be supplied to the IAF have also been used to train around 100 IAF engineering officers and technicians in BAE Systems' Technical Training Academy at Warton who will support the aircraft when it enters service.
Mark Parkinson continued: ''We have also completed conversion training of experienced IAF Flying Instructors to become instructor pilots on the Indian Hawk – these instructors are returning to India to train the Indian Air Force's next generation of frontline pilots.
''The delivery of these first aircraft is a major milestone on this contract which sees BAE Systems deliver a total training solution geared to the specific requirements of the Indian Air Force. The successful delivery of this programme, on schedule, is a prime example of BAE Systems' capabilities in developing and managing major programmes. ''
The two IAF Hawks will arrive in India after a number of days and refuelling stops. The process of ferrying the aircraft will continue over the coming months until all UK built aircraft are delivered.
BAE Systems is the premier global defence and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions and customer support services.
With 96,000 employees worldwide, BAE Systems'''' sales exceeded £15 billion (US $27 billion) in 2006.