BAE Systems is proceeding with design and wind-tunnel testing of a new wing for the evergreen Hawk jet trainer. The work, which is being done in the UK, was prompted by Indian interest in a “combat” version of the aircraft, as a follow-on to the current licensed production of the Mk132 advanced jet trainer (AJT) version by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). BAE prefers to call it an “advanced” version. BAE and HAL signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in May 2015 to explore future cooperation, and discussions continue.
Steve Timms, BAE’s managing director of defense information and training services, said that a slatted wing would produce an “interesting” increase in the Hawk’s performance, including shorter takeoffs and landings, and agility. New sensors and weapons would be added, as well as a helmet-mounted display for the pilot, and possibly also a single large-screen display in the front cockpit. Indian media last year reported an MBDA official suggesting the ASRAAM and Brimstone missiles as armaments. “The Hawk can already drop 500-pound bombs,” Timms noted.
HAL is currently producing the last of the 123 Hawk Mk132s that India ordered in various batches through 2010. The Indian air force is flying up to 100 sorties per day, and the aircraft is demonstrating good availability, said Timms. The MoU also includes a possible long-term joint venture for the support of these aircraft, and for India’s BAE Jaguars, which are likely to remain in service for decades to come, according to Timms. If a firm agreement to develop the combat Hawk can be reached, BAE would first modify its UK-based Hawk AJT demonstrator, he added.
Meanwhile, production of Hawk AJTs in the UK is assured until 2018, thanks to recent orders by Saudi Arabia (44) and Oman (8). These aircraft have the latest cockpit and training system modifications to help pilots from those countries transition to the Eurofighter Typhoon combat jet. “The current Hawk is still very relevant, and we can create a rich training environment, both in the air on the ground,” Timms said.