BAE, Rolls-Royce clinch billion dollar Hawk order in India

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BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce clinched Wednesday deals worth a combined 1.1 billion dollars to supply 57 Hawk jets and engines to India, boosting their presence in the nation's vast defence market.

The agreements were sealed with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) at the state-run defence unit's headquarters in the southern city of Bangalore in the presence of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has said he wants to make boosting trade the main focus of British foreign policy.

Cameron called the agreements "an outstanding example of India-UK defence and industrial partnership" and said it would bring "significant economic benefits" to both countries.

"It is evidence of our new, commercial foreign policy in action," Cameron said in a statement.

India had ordered 66 Hawk trainer jets from BAE in 2004 in a 1.45-billion-dollar deal and Wednesday's follow-up agreements were the high point of a raft of bilateral trade pacts to be signed during Cameron's visit.

The 500 million pound (779 million dollar) accord for 57 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT) "highlights the importance of BAE Systems' strategic development of India as a home market," Guy Griffiths, London-based BAE's international group managing director said in an emailed statement.

BAE last year declared India one if its "home markets" where it aims to increase its operational presence.

Rolls-Royce announced separately it had finalised a 200-million-pound (312 million dollar) contract to supply Adour engines for Hawks.

Hindustan Aeronautics and Rolls-Royce, whose engineering cooperation relationship dates back to 1956, will co-produce the engines.

"This follow-on order for the Adour engine is a huge vote of confidence," said Chris Awde, Rolls-Royce defence sales and commercial director.

The Hawk AJT, which BAE bills as the world's most advanced jet training aircraft, allows the military to prepare pilots for the most modern fighter aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon and Sukhoi SU-30.

All 57 aircraft will be assembled locally with Hindustan Aeronautics from raw materials supplied by BAE.

The aircraft will be made under licence at HAL's plant in Bangalore and BAE Systems will provide specialist engineering services, the raw materials and equipment for production of the airframe.

India, which is on a spending spree to update its largely Soviet-era weapons system, is seeking to sharply increase the domestic production content of its military hardware to 70 percent from 30 percent.

BAE tied up with Indian vehicle maker Mahindra and Mahindra last November to create heavy armoured land vehicles and other equipment for India's technology-hungry military.

Indian pilots will use the Hawks to train for the Indian military's Russian fighter planes, along with a planned 126 combat planes that New Delhi aims to purchase abroad.

BAE is part of the Eurofighter group that is vying along with five other aerospace giants such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin for a 12-billion-dollar military contract to supply the 126 fighters.

© 2010 AFP

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