By 2017 Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and BAE aimed to woo the attention of countries which are potential targets of the Pakistan-China developed JF-17 Thunder. India's government controlled Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) planned to aggressively market the upgraded advanced Hawk trainer jets during the 11th edition of Aero India to be held in Bengaluru from 14 February 2017.
HAL in 2015 signed an MoU with BAE Systems UK for upgradation of Hawk Mk132, development of Combat Hawk for Indian and export markets and maintenance solutions for supporting Jaguar and Hawk fleet. "Combat Hawk" involves fitting air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground guns, besides, rockets and bombs to the plane. Such an aircraft, slower than a fighter jet, can be useful for operations in forested areas and in low mountains. Moreover, many countries cannot afford to spend big on bigger fighter aircraft and hence the project has a lot of export potential.
HAL took up the indigenous role change development program to convert the jet trainer into a Combat-Ready platform. The aircraft is upgraded with indigenously designed avionics hardware, software and system architecture enhancing operational role from a trainer aircraft into a Combat-ready platform with improved quality and depth of training by Large Force Engagement (LFE) tactics through Electronic Virtual Training System (EVTS). Hawk-i is capable of delivering precision Munitions including Air to Ground and close combat weapons, self defence capabilities through Electronic Warfare (EW) systems, digital map generator and operational reliability through new Dual Hot stand-by Mission Computer Avionics architecture supported by indigenous high accuracy and high Altitude Radio Altimeter, IFF MKXII, Data Transfer system, CMDS and RWR.
The trainer jet jointly developed by HAL and BAE of the United Kingdom hoped to find foreign takers despite lukewarm response from the Indian Air Force for which it was mainly intended. Informed sources suggested that it is unlikely that HAL-BAE developed combat trainer would find any orders from Indian forces. "Forces did not discuss any purchase plan for combat Hawk."
The Indian Air Force already operated 123 Hawk MK-132 jets for advanced training for pilots. HAL and BAE had agreed to develop the advanced combat version in year 2015. The aircraft is capable of carrying 3000 kilogram of weapons consisting air-to-air missiles; air-to-surface missiles; air-to-surface rocket and bombs.
Manufacturer claims the advanced Hawk will reduce training demands on more expensive frontline aircraft, creating additional capacity for operational tasks, whilst delivering fast jet training in a more cost-effective, structured and safer environment.
"Together with HAL, we are looking forward to show this industry-funded demonstrator to the Indian and other air forces and seeking their feedback on the combination of features that will better prepare student combat pilots for the demands of frontline aircraft," Stephen Timms, MD- Defense Information, Training & Services at BAE said.
Hawk is being produced by HAL under license from BAE allowing production of the combat jet for export. "High commonality with the existing Hawk production and support infrastructure in India enables the advanced Hawk to be manufactured and supported with maximum reuse of facilities, equipment and skills," BAE said.
HAL-BAE aim to sell approximately 300 advanced Hawks across the world. The state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is hoping that the Combat Hawk will be an ideal export product besides being used domestically.
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