NEW DELHIPrime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to expand an order for BAE Systems (BAES.L) Hawk training aircraft to revive India’s aerobatic display team when he visits Britain this week, government sources said on Monday.
Sources familiar with the talks say Modi wants to buy an extra 20 Hawk Mk132s, worth $400-$450 million, on top of existing orders already made for 123 of the single-engine, jet-powered trainers.
During the first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister since 2006, Modi will on Thursday witness a fly-past over London by the Red Arrows, the Royal Air Force display team that also flies Hawks.
Diplomats say that during his visit, India and Britain could strike deals worth 8-12 billion pounds ($12-$18 billion), although details remain sketchy.
If ordered, the new planes would make it possible to revive the Indian Air Force’s Surya Kiran (Sun Ray) aerobatic team that has been borrowing Hawks from the training squadrons after its own planes were retired from service.
One stumbling block is that Modi wants the extra planes to be manufactured by local partner Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), but this is not yet possible because of delays to a new defence procurement policy, one defence source said.
India bought a first batch of 66 Hawks in 2004, 24 of which were delivered in fly-away condition and the remainder made at HAL’s plant in Bengaluru. A second batch in 2010 of 57 planes is still under production.
BAE Systems declined to comment.
($1 = 0.6625 pounds)
(Reporting by Douglas Busvine, Rupam Jain Nair and Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Nick Macfie)