Speaking on the occasion, Mr Antony said a long cherished dream of the IAF had been fulfilled. ''This will go a long way in training our budding pilots. Hawk-132 will fill the gap in pilot training between Kiran Mark-II jet trainers and highly demanding MIG-21 fighters," he said. Eight Hawk AJTs were inducted into the IAF at Air Station Bidar, on the Northern tip of Karnataka.
Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal F H Major said the induction of Hawk AJTs brought 'empathic satisfaction' to the air warriors. ''In the new political scenario, the demand of the situation was a swift response and aerospace power will play a pivotal role in this respect,'' he said.
Five pilot officers, bestowed with the honour of flying the Hawks for the first time after induction, were Wing Commanders Raman Gupta, Hindwan, Pankaj Jain, Krishnan and Ajay Chaudhury. On the occasion, Officer Training Command Air Vice Marshal Gurnam Singh Chaudhury said 70 pilots from the IAF had been trained at the Royal Air Force of UK during the last 18 months.
The IAF had spent Rs 120 crore to upgrade the air station here to accommodate the Hawk squadron. It had built new hanger facilities and sun shades, he said. The induction of Hawk-132 marked a major milestone for IAF which first articulated inducting AJTs way back in 1982 and it remained high on its agenda for procurement ever since. However procedural delays affected the purchase for over two decades. Ultimately the deal was signed with UK based BAE Systems for purchase of 66 Hawk-132s in 2004 at a cost of USD 1.56 billion dollars. Out of this 24 will be directly supply Hawks, built in UK and flown into India, while the remaining 42 would be manufactured under license to build at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in Bangalore.
The Union government had also sent a request for proposal to HAL to build another 57 Hawks for IAF and Navy. IAF, the fourth biggest air force in the world, felt that there existed a quantum difference in the skill and judgment levels required of a young fighter pilot as he transisted to state of the art fighters such as Sukhoi-30 MKI, Mirage 2000 and MiG-29 after getting trained on Kiran Mark-II.
It is also equipped with several Indian made components such as communications sets, identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system and the radio altimeter. In addition to being a AJT, Hawk-132 is fully combat capable and can carry air to air missile and air to ground armament. It could also be used as lightweight fighter.
With today's induction, IAF became the 19th air force to use the Hawk jet as their trainer of front line, fast jet pilots and reinforces the Hawks position a world's most successful jet trainer.