BAE has edge in dogfight over £1bn Iraq order


Senior Member
Oct 5, 2009
BAE has edge in dogfight over £1bn Iraq order

Talks in progress on purchase of 24 Hawk trainer jets as Britain competes with Korea and Italy to re-equip air force

The Iraqi Government is in talks to buy 24 Hawk trainer jets for up to £1 billion in a deal that would be the country's first large arms purchase from the UK for more than 20 years.

Military insiders have told The Times that officials from the Iraqi Air Force will be in Britain in May and June to test the Hawk, which is used by the Royal Air Force to train fast-jet pilots.

The BAE Systems Hawk is being considered alongside jets from Korea and Italy as Iraq starts to rebuild an air force that was destroyed by coalition forces during the Gulf War.

The deal could be worth £500 million initially, rising to £1 billion over the life of the aircraft once servicing and maintenance contracts are included.

If Hawk wins the Iraqi competition, it will be a significant milestone in the rebirth of an aircraft that some analysts had written off. Declining orders for Hawk had forced Europe's largest defence company to cut 450 jobs at Brough, near Hull, two years ago.

Separately, India is set to order another 60 Hawks in addition to the 66 it has already booked. That deal could be announced within weeks.

BAE has entered a joint venture with Hindustan Aeronautics to assemble the Hawk in India, but a large portion of the work will be done in the UK.

Poland is also considering a new fleet of trainer aircraft and even France, which has traditionally bought only domestic military aircraft, has expressed an interest in the Hawk. The Chinese and Russians are also said to be eyeing this potential market but Hawk benefits from being associated with the RAF and the Red Arrows, which also use the aircraft.

Hawk's revival has in large part been driven by a lack of competition. Many aerospace companies have abandoned trainer jets because of a lack of orders and the cost of developing new models. Some countries outsource pilot training to other air forces, although this can be expensive.

The main rivals to Hawk are Korea's T50, which is a more expensive supersonic aircraft, and Italy's Maki 346, which is still only a prototype.

BAE declined to comment on specific export orders but said that it was optimistic about several sales opportunities.

Chris Boardman, BAE's managing director of the Typhoon and Hawk aircraft, said: "Hawk is a programme many people thought was on the wane but in reality we are in a fortunate position with a lot of potential customers. We think we have an advantage over other planes because we have an established market and the product has a good reputation."

The Hawk was introduced in 1976 but the RAF is flying the T2 version, which was introduced last year and is an almost entirely new aircraft.

The interest from Iraq comes as the country starts to rebuild its armed forces. The country has signed a contract to buy up to 15 Beechcraft T-6A turbo-prop aircraft from the United States to provide initial flight training for pilots. However, fast-jet training is also required before Iraqi pilots can climb into fighter jets and officials have begun a search for a suitable aircraft.

BAE's predecessor British Aerospace was in talks with the Iraqis in 1989 to sell 50 Hawks. This deal was blocked by the British Government amid concern that the aircraft could be converted for combat missions, which would have contravened arms restrictions put in place during the Iran-Iraq war.

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