The Indian Air Force (IAF) is in negotiations with BAE Systems to weaponise its fleet of Hawk Mk 132 advanced jet trainers (AJTs) so they could be deployed on strike co-ordinated armed reconnaissance and close air support missions.
BAE Systems officials told IHS Jane's at Aero India 2015 that the IAF is evaluating the feasibility of integrating its largely licence-built Hawk Mk 132s with a range of weapon systems that are fitted onto its SEPECAT Jaguar fighters.
According to Dave Corfield, head of Hawk India, this included MBDA's Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles, Rafael Litening targeting pods, and a range of smart weapons.
He said the IAF was also assessing the possibility of equipping the Hawks with the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, which turns an unguided 70 mm rocket into a precision laser-guided weapon.
The IAF issued a request for information for such a system in 2014 to which, in addition to BAE Systems, an Israeli and US vendor responded.
"We are in talks not only with the IAF and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL] [which has been licence building Hawks since 2007-08], but also the Ministry of Defence [MoD] on arming the AJTs," Corfield said.
By 2016-17 the IAF will operate 106 Hawks and the Indian Navy another 17, making India the largest operator of the type. The IAF plans to acquire another 20 Hawks for its aerobatics team, disbanded in February 2011 after its HAL-built Surya Kiran HJT-16 Mk I and Mk II aircraft were diverted to train fighter pilots.
Alongside, the IAF is examining an offer by BAE Systems and Israel's Elbit to equip the Hawks with virtual training systems of major combat aircraft.
BAE officials said these would simulate radar, weapons, and electronic warfare systems of MiG-29s, Mirage-2000Hs, and Su-30MKIs - the platforms to which trainee fighter pilots graduate.
IAF fighter pilots begin their instruction on Pilatus PC-7 Mk II tandem-seat basic turboprop trainers for 55 hours before moving onto the Kiran HJT-16 Mk I and Mk II intermediate jet trainers for another 70 hours. Thereafter, they graduate to Hawk Mk 132s for two 'semesters' of 135 hours before going on to operate fighters.