No more Hawks, IAF to have new trainers

In an unusual move, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has cancelled plans for a follow-on order of the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) and has instead floated a global tender for a new aircraft to train pilots.

While the IAF ordered 66 Hawk trainers in 2004 the deal was signed in the last few weeks of the NDA Government after a procurement procedure that lasted almost two decades, it has now shelved plans for an additional 40 trainers and has sent fresh Request for Proposals (RFPs) to six aviation majors across the world.

Sources said the decision to look for a new trainer was taken as the IAF was not too keen on procuring additional Hawks after facing problems of spare parts and delays in arrival of critical components for the assembly line in India.

The fresh tender has been sent to six contenders Italy's Alenia Aermacchi for the M-346, the Korean T 50, the Chez L 159, the Russian YAK 130, BAE's new Hawk and the MiG AT trainer.

BAE systems, the original manufacture that came under flak for problems in the Hawk fleet, said it would participate in the fresh tender. "We can confirm we are in receipt of the RFP for additional Advanced Jet Trainers. We firmly believe the Hawk, which is already in-service training the next generation of IAF pilots, is the ideal platform to meet the current and future AJT requirements of the Indian Government," a company spokesperson said.

Aviation experts are surprised at the move as the IAF generally prefers to have only one type of advanced trainer in its inventory to keep down costs and servicing issues. The decision to go in for an additional type of trainer is also expected to result in a time overrun.

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