BAE Systems is busily working to restart the Hawk production line at Warton in the U.K., now that it has firm orders for 22 aircraft for Saudi Arabia and eight for Oman.
Saudi Arabia is due to receive its first Hawk in 2016 and Oman will get its first in 2017, BAE’s director of Hawk aircraft programs, Michael Christie, told Aviation Week on the sidelines of the recent Aero India show in Bengaluru. Work to restart the Hawk production line in Warton is progressing well, he says, adding that “we’re integrating the jigs this month and are ahead of schedule.”
There is also a Hawk production line at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) in Bengaluru that makes Hawk jet trainers for the Indian air force (IAF).
India has ordered 123 Hawks and BAE is hoping for a follow-on order for 20 more. The request for proposals has already been issued and the 20 aircraft are to be assigned to the IAF aerobatic team. A BAE official tells Aviation Week that the 20 built for the aerobatic team will be exactly the same as the other Hawk trainers being built for the air force, except for the addition of smoke pods on the aerobatic models.
The Oman and Saudi deals have brought the total number of Hawks sold under the program to 998, so a follow-on order from India for 20 more would bring the Hawk program to more than 1,000 aircraft, which is a significant milestone, Christie says. He says with that sort of volume, BAE has enormous bargaining power to ensure that “we get better prices out of our supply chain.”
BAE also sees an opportunity to sell the Hawk advanced jet trainer to the French air force. Peter Anstiss, BAE board member and business development director for military and air information, says “Hawk is under consideration for replacement of France’s AlphaJet.”
The Alpha Jet is an advanced jet trainer developed in the 1970s by Germany’s Dornier and France’s Dassault. Germany’s air force has already phased out the Alpha Jet, but France’s air force still operates the aircraft, as do other air forces around the world, such as Thailand’s.
Selling to France in the short-term, however, may be a challenge in light of the budget constraints in Europe. Guy Griffiths, BAE’s international group managing director, says because of the tight fiscal situation in the U.S. and Europe, it is important for BAE to look at opportunities outside of those two markets.
“India represents one of the most attractive places for investment,” he says. “We expect that in 2012 and 2013 we will have delivered about 1 billion pounds of new order intake [to India]. That represents 5% of annual sales value. Five percent is a significant number and deserves our attention.”