'Hawks' land at Bidar Air Force base

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Bidar, Karnataka, Nov 12 (UNI) The much-awaited induction of the modern Hawk MK-132 advanced jet trainers (AJTs) began with two aircraft landing today at the IAF station on the northern tip of Karnataka.

The AJTs that left Warton Airfield in the UK on November 8, flew via Toulouse, Malta, Greece and Saudi Arabia. They landed at Jamnagar in Gujarat early in the day and arrived here at 1600 hrs.

Receiving the papers of the aircraft Air Marshal G S Chaudhary, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Trainig Command said its induction into the training curriculum of the fighter pilots should improve the training and flight safety standards of the IAF.

The Hawks, first of the 66 MK-132 aircraft being purchased for the IAF, were flown by a mix crew of BAE Systems and IAF pilots. The Indian pilots were Wing Commander Pankaj Jain and Squadron Leader Tarun Hindwan.

They will impart stage-III training to the newly commissioned fighter pilots of the IAF from June next year.

The arrival of the ATJs marked excitement and enthusiasm. They were escorted into Bidar airspace by 'Suryakirans' streaming national colours. They landed in pairs and taxied into aprons.

A Defence release said four more Hawks would be ferried-in by February next and six others in phases. Out of the 66 purchased, 24 were being built by BAE, while Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics would manufacture the remaining 42 under a licence. The completion of the delivery schedule would see all the 66 aircraft operational by 2010-11.

Meanwhile, the Bidar Air Station dating back to World War-II period, was recently refurbished to house the latest arrival. The runway had been extended to 9,000 feet, while technical facilities readied to accommodate the full fleet.

Air Commodore Ramesh Rai, AOC, Bidar said, ''framing of the flying and operating procedures in the local flying area will have top priority.'' UNI RS MSP SP RAI2148

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