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Aero India 2017: Twin Hawks grow longer talons

16th February 2017 - 15:42 by Gordon Arthur in Bangalore

Aero India 2017: Twin Hawks grow longer talons

Aero India 2017, Bangalore's biennial aerospace show, experienced a convergence of two Hawk flight paths from 14-18 February when both the Advanced Hawk and Hawk i were exhibited.

BAE Systems and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) displayed their joint Advanced Hawk on the ground, while HAL also demonstrated its blue-coloured Hawk i in the air.

The Advanced Hawk was making its international debut, with two prototypes currently in existence. Bedecked in Union Jack nose markings and Indian livery on the wings, the advanced jet trainer is the recent fruit of British-Indian cooperation.

'It takes the best features from Hawks around the world,' according to David Corfield, a BAE Systems spokesperson. For example, it takes Australia's refuelling probe, and combat flaps and active leading-edge slats, to offer air forces an enhanced training platform.

Corfield explained that the Advanced Hawk gives far better fighter-like handling – including 13% more thrust from the Rolls-Royce Adour 951 engine, 30% more lift, 25% tighter turns and 17% faster climbs. This means there is less of a step-up for pilots before they move on to their next fighter platform after completing their initial jet training.

The 20in wide screen in the cockpit (updated from that on the F-35) with four portals can be usefully configured to replicate whatever controls pilots will face on their follow-on fighters.

At the other end of the scale, the Advanced Hawk can be configured to suit pilots just beginning their jet training. The instructor in the rear seat can also re-programme elements in flight. As Corfield said, it is 'infinitely customisable'.

Other Advanced Hawk improvements include nose wheel steering, onboard oxygen generation, head-up display, ground proximity radar, traffic collision and avoidance system, data link and autopilot. It can be fitted with either live or synthetic weapons, including smart weapons such as Brimstone, ASRAAM and Paveway.

The Advanced Hawk could be used for training tasks usually done by combat aircraft, perhaps up to 30% of such tasks. This frees up frontline capacity.

Corfield said the upgrade on offer keeps the Hawk AJT relevant in the market. The project also helped fulfil BAE Systems offset obligations to the Indian market. The OEM and HAL signed an MoU in 2015, and the two partners funded the programme themselves.

With this design, India has the opportunity to break into the combat aircraft export market. Although they can offer components of the Advanced Hawk to existing customers, the two companies would really like to gain new export customers for the Advanced Hawk.

However, it is a sector facing stiffer competition, especially as China gains a bigger slice of the market. Any foreign sales would also require approval from both the British and Indian governments.

Turning to the Hawk i, this programme was done independently by HAL. The state-owned company built 99 Hawk Mk132 jets for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy, while the Hawk i is the 100th aircraft built on HAL's assembly line using remaining materials.

HAL described it as 'the first indigenously upgraded Hawk Mk132'. The project gave the organisation a chance to expand the aircraft's capabilities and promote Indian self-sufficiency.

Among the Hawk i's improvements are a new mission computer and data transfer units, digital map generation, secure voice communications and data link, configurable cockpit human machine interface and an embedded virtual training system.

HAL hopes the Indian military would invest in such an upgrade for its Hawk fleet, which has now surpassed 100,000 flying hours in service.

On the other hand, Shephard understands that the Advanced Hawk upgrade has received only lukewarm reception from the Indian military so far.

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