The Indian Air Force will induct the first five of its recently acquired Hawk 132 advanced jet trainers (AJTs) into its training squadron on 23 February 2008, in the presence of the defence minister AK Antony.
The induction ceremony will also mark the operationalisation of these aircraft.
According to IAF sources, the training of new pilots on the Hawks is expected to start from July 2008. The AJTs will replace the more demanding MiG-21 platforms for providing advanced training to the next generation of India's fighter pilots.
The induction of Hawk AJTs meets a long-standing demand of the IAF for an aircraft that could bridge the gap between intermediate jet trainers, such as the Kiran, and the advanced fighter aircrafts in the air force.
The Hawk 132 is expected to help bridge the gap in the quantum difference in skill and judgement levels required by a young fighter pilot as he transits to state-of-the-art fighter aircraft such as the Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000 and MiG-29. The Hawk will serve as the lead trainer for these advanced aircraft.
The first two Hawk AJT aircraft arrived at AFS Bidar, in northwest Karnataka on 12 November 2007.
The Hawk-132 is a variant of the highly successful BAE Systems Hawk AJTs. It incorporates an open architecture mission computer, glass cockpit and a state of the art avionics suite including a new generation Inertial Navigation System with GPS (INGPS).
The Hawk 132 is also equipped with several Indian components such as communication sets, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system and the radio altimeter.
In addition to being an AJT, the Hawk 132 is fully combat-capable and can carry air-to-air missiles and carry out air-to-ground strikes. It can also be used as a lightweight fighter.
The contract for the supply of 66 Hawk AJT aircraft was signed with BAE Systems in 2004. While the first batch of 24 aircraft will be built at the BAE Systems' facilities in Brough in East Yorkshire (UK), with flight-testing taking place at Wharton, the remaining 42 aircraft will be manufactured under licence in India by the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Bangalore.
The Bidar airfield, located in northwest Karnataka, will serve as the main operating base for the Hawk. This base has been a training establishment for trainee IAF pilots since 1963.
India would be the third biggest customer for Hawks, closely following in the footsteps of the British Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force.