Jamnagar: The acquisition of the first two of the 24 Hawk advanced jet trainers (AJT) from Britain is likely to begin by July and the aircraft are expected to become operational from September, according to the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief. Air chief marshal S P Tyagi was speaking to reporters here on the sidelines of a function organised to phase out the MiG-23MF jets after their last ceremonial flight here.
The aircraft will be part of the total of 66 AJTs that the IAF is set to acquire as part of an urgent programme to provide an advanced training platform for its fighter pilots. While 24 will be supplied by UK defence major BAE Systems in a fly-away condition, the rest will be manufactured by Indian aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
The acquisition of AJTs had been hanging fire for well over two decades and only a spate of fighter aircraft accidents over the last decade, which caused a high number of pilot deaths, finally prodded the government to sign up for these trainers.
Meanwhile, the IAF is set to receive the first two of the 100-series Hawk trainers, which have already carried out their first flights in the UK. The 100-series aircraft have most recently entered service with the Bahrain Air Force, with final delivery having been made of six Hawk-129s. The IAF will be receiving another version, the Hawk-132. The Royal Air Force (RAF) has contracted for a fresh lot of 28 Hawk-128s.
It is not clear how the various versions differ from each other in terms of their capabilities.
The Hawks are small agile aircraft that fly at trans-sonic speed and impart training in air combat techniques as well as air-to-ground weapon delivery.
According to BAE sources, the Indian Air Force will take delivery of its first two Hawk AJT platforms in September. IAF pilots are already receiving instruction in the UK on the older RAF Hawk T1/1As. Company sources indicate that IAF and HAL test pilots will convert to the Hawk 132 at BAE's Warton site in Lancashire this year and put in around 200 flight hours on the first three 132s. As more jets roll out of the factory, they will be used for the instruction of Indian maintenance and engineering personnel.
The RAF's current Hawk T1/1A fleet passed the one million flying hour mark last year.
The new RAF Hawk-128 will feature enhanced capabilities as far as radar, electronic warfare equipment and weapons use is concerned, and will also take over an increasing load of training activities from operational units for conversion of pilots to frontline strike aircraft.