Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2004-03-18 Reporter: AFP

India, BAE to Sign $1,63bn Jet Trainer Deal



Business Day

Date 2004-03-18



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New Delhi - India was set to sign a deal later Friday with British Aerospace (BAE) for the purchase of 66 Hawk Advance Jet Trainers worth 1.63 billion dollars, according to a top defence ministry official.

India, which dragged its feet for more than 20 years on the trainer jet deal, hopes to use the Hawks to graduate new pilots to fly its mainstay MiG-21 fighter jets*.

"The two sides have finalised their discussions and a (memorandum of understanding) on the deal will be signed at the defence ministry," the official, who wished not to be named, said as the two sides wrapped up negotiations in the Indian capital.

The Indian government approved the Hawk purchase in September last year but the contract came up for renewed scrutiny over the accounting.

Defence ministry officials said India's state-run Hindustan Aeronautics had made "an oversight" in not accounting for the bill the government would have to pay for tooling up its factory to assemble the Hawks.

The figure cited in the oversight ** varied between 15 and 50 million dollars.

"I think those details have been ironed out and there will be a statement shortly on the MOU," the ministry official said.

India, which boasts the world's fourth largest air force, began scouring the global arms bazaar for advanced jet trainers in 1983.

The first response came from France's Dassault, which offered its fixed-wing Alphajet in 1994, but competition heated up in 1997 when BAE matched the French offer *** with its Hawk, arguing the trainer could be configured into a combat aircraft ****.

Rivalries picked up the following year when Russia, India's largest military hardware supplier, jumped into the fray with its MiG-AT trainer*****.

With acknowledgement to Business Day.

* Not a fourth generation fighter like the Gripen JAS-39.

** Undersight?

*** Sure they did.

**** Familiar argument.

***** Interesting not to choose the MiG-AT trainer for the MiG-21 fighter.