Combat Hawk:- Weaponizing HAL BUILT Hawk Trainer Aircraft
The Indian Air Force (IAF), facing a severe shortage of fighter aircraft, will have the opportunity to boost its combat strength with an unusual asset fitting guns and rockets on Hawk trainer aircraft, bought for training IAF pilots before they entered the cockpits of high performance fighters like the MiG-21.
On Tuesday, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and UK-headquartered BAE Systems (BAE), agreed to explore the development of a “Combat Hawk” which could even be exported to friendly foreign countries.
India already has the world’s largest fleet of Hawk Mk 132 advanced jet trainers (AJTs). The IAF and navy have 123 Hawks on order, of which 90 are already in service, training their pilots. While HAL builds the remaining 33 in Bengaluru under licence from BAE, the IAF is contracting for another 20 Hawks for its superlative aerobatics display team, which so far flew the Kiran Mark II.
The Hawk AJT already has advanced avionics, including digital cockpit displays that allow trainee pilots to practice navigation, the use of sensors like radar, and to fire weapons. Transforming this into a “Combat Hawk” involves fitting air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground guns, rockets and bombs. The Hawk Mk132 has seven wing stations for mounting weapons and reconnaissance equipment. These weapons need to be integrated with the avionics of the aircraft.
Such “light attack aircraft” are adapt at several missions that high-performance fighters are ill suited to perform. Flying slower, their pilots get more time to identify targets, especially over jungle terrain, or when targets are camouflaged. In mountains, accuracy is extremely important because even narrowly missing a target on a sharp ridge line means the bomb or rocket strikes harmlessly, hundreds of feet below. Light attack aircraft allow greater accuracy.
The increasing national concerns with in the country with terrorists and the barbaric attacks by naxals has always time and again stressed the need for air support to ground forces within the country by the means of Light Attack fighter. The ongoing naxal operations have always required a decent Light Attack CAS fighter to give support to the force within the country.
IAF initially had drawn up plans to procure a COIN (counter intelligence) Aircraft to deal in demanding time. But a detailed feasibility study completes by IAF the HAWK have emerged as the best option. This plan can be realized only if the British based BAE system gives India a go ahead to Arm these trainer jets which have served IAF as an AJT. The IAF formally has sent a letter of request to BAE systems in regard to arming these AJT. With HAL having experience in arming jets has formally forwarded a plan of action to BAE systems and the same was proposed and showcased in Aero India – 2105. With BAE systems showing interest in the project HAL may receive a go ahead soon to arm the jets giving a major thrust to the dipping fighting squadron numbers.
Besides accuracy, affordability is another big plus for light attack aircraft. Many countries cannot afford to buy or operate fighters. The Afghan Air Force will fly 20 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft for counter-insurgency (COIN) operations against the Taliban. Meanwhile, the United States Special Operations Command is also buying a fleet of similar aircraft for its “light air support” programme.
The defence ministry has not yet announced a plan to acquire or operate light attack aircraft. India’s military has been historically reluctant to use combat aircraft in COIN operations, given the potential for collateral damage.
If Project is completed successfully India will become a export hub for the Hawk. Saudi Arabia and Oman, which are inducting the Eurofighter Typhoon, are likely to demand Hawk trainers. India could position itself to address those markets.
Source:- business standard