Farnborough - BAE Systems is within weeks of advancing a landmark deal which will push sales of its Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT) through the 1,000 barrier and build on a potentially pivotal recent success with Saudi Arabia.
The newest generation of the familiar product is greeting visitors to the company’s pavilion at the Farnborough air show, with a Hawk T2 from the Royal Air Force’s 4 Sqn having been flown in from its Valley base in Anglesey, north Wales.
"Hawk is in a buoyant position," says Michael Christie, BAE’s director of Hawk aircraft programmes. "We have 990 sold and are going for 1,000 and way beyond."
The company expects to receive a request for proposals within a few weeks to supply 20 AJTs to replace the Hindustan Aeronautics Kiran trainers flown by the Indian air force’s Surya Kiran aerobatic display team, he adds.
Saudi Arabia last month signed a deal to acquire 22 Hawk 165s, which will be identical in configuration to the 28 T2s already delivered to the RAF. Riyadh’s commitment could, BAE hopes, charge a campaign to sell the new-generation aircraft to other existing customers for earlier models of the Hawk.
Unlike its predecessors, the new Hawk will be able to bridge the gap to advanced combat aircraft like the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35, thanks to on-board features like the embedded simulation of radar, electronic warfare equipment and weapons.
With an eye on the future, BAE is already looking at possible capabilities to appear in a so-called OC4+ version of the T2 beyond 2015.
This timeframe is relevant for the US Air Force’s pending T-X requirement to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon. Teamed with Northrop Grumman and L-3 Link to promote the Hawk AJT, BAE is among a field of likely bidders, along with Alenia North America, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
"T-X is a very high priority for BAE Systems," says Bob Wood, lead executive for the activity.
The 4 Sqn aircraft on show this week carries special markings to commemorate the centenary of the unit’s formation in 1912.