The Indian Air Force's excellent aerobatics team, Surya Kiran, that's been dormant for four years, won't be scrambling its pilots for display flying just yet, but there's positive movement in the process to give the team a new fleet of aircraft. Negotiations to acquire 20 new Hawk jet trainers for the Surya Kiran team began just weeks ago between with the aircraft's maker BAE Systems and operator of the Indian production line HAL.
The negotiations are based on BAE's December 2014 response to HAL's RfP sent out in October of that year.
The Surya Kiran team wound up in 2011 after a trainer fleet crisis necessitated the redeployment of the team's HJT-16 Kiran Mk.2s for training duties. With pilots of the former team sent into operational flying tenures and other appointments, a fresh team will form around the new aircraft fleet, once a deal is done. A deal would push India's Hawk fleet number up to 143.
Negotiations are expected to wrap up quickly, given that HAL has a buzzing production line on which it is in the process of progressing deliveries of the remaining 33 Hawks to the Indian Navy and IAF. The IAF and Navy ordered 57 HAL-built Hawks in 2010 as a follow on to 66 originally ordered in 2004 for the IAF. HAL's Hawk line, therefore, accounts for 99 airframes, with the 20 additional aircraft to be built there too. India happens now to be the largest operator of the Hawk.
BAE Systems confirmed to Livefist, "BAE Systems has commenced contract negotiations with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) on a potential order to supply products and services for the manufacture of a further 20 Hawk aircraft. The aircraft, to be built by HAL in Bengaluru, will fulfil the Indian Air Force’s requirement for its prestigious aerobatic team."
In a related development today at the Aero India show, BAE Systems announced that it has secured an ₤18.5 million five-year contract to provide HAL a "comprehensive package comprising ground support equipment, spares, support and training for the Hawk". The agreement was signed by HAL's overhauls general manager Wing Commander (Retd) Benjamin, Retd. and Steve Timms, Managing Director, Defence Information, Training and Services, Military Air & Information, BAE Systems. The company added that this is in support of HAL’s plans to establish a dedicated repair & overhaul facility for the aircraft in advance of a major servicing milestone anticipated in 2016.