Indian Air Force

HAL’s Hawk-I: A Cost-Effective Back Up?

Hello defence lovers! In this article, we are going to discuss the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) Hawk-I program. We will try to look at the various aspects of converting an advanced trainer into a combat-ready fighter. We will also try to understand why this Hawk-I can prove to be a cost-effective backup in critical times.

BAE Hawk

Before understanding what hawk-i is we have to first understand what is BAE Hawk, Hawk i’s base platform. The BAE Systems Hawk is a British single-engine, advanced jet trainer aircraft. It was first flown at Dunsfold, Surrey, in 1974 as the Hawker Siddeley Hawk, and subsequently produced by its successor companies, British Aerospace, and BAE Systems. It has been used in a training capacity and as a low-cost combat aircraft.

The Operators of the Hawk include the Royal Air Force, Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, United States Navy, and a considerable number of foreign military operators. The Hawk is still in production in the UK and under license in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), with over 900 Hawks sold to 18 operators around the world. The Indian Airforce’s Surya Kiran Aerobatic team consists of these BAE Hawks. In total Indian Airforce and navy together operate more than 150 hawk aircraft.

Hawk’s Design And Performace

The Hawk is an advanced trainer with a two-man tandem cockpit, a low-mounted cantilever wing, and is powered by a single Roll Royce  Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour Mk. 951 turbofan engine which produces 29kN dry thrust which can propel the aircraft at a maximum speed of Mach 0.88 making it a transonic fighter. Hawk was specially designed to have a high level of serviceability, as well as lower purchasing and operating costs. The BAE Hawk has been praised by pilots for its agility, in particular, its role and turn to handle.

Even when the hawk was in design and development stages, one of its variants was intended to also serve as a single-seat ground-attack fighter thus both the trainer and fighter models were developed keeping the export market in mind. On single-seat models, the forward cockpit area which normally houses a pilot is replaced by an electronics bay for avionics and onboard systems, including a fire control computer, multi-mode radar, laser rangefinder, and forward-looking infrared (FLIR). Some export customers, such as Malaysia, have extensive modifications to their aircraft, including the addition of wingtip hardpoint stations and a fittable inflight refueling probe.

Technical Specifications

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2: student, instructor
  • Length: 12.43 m (40 ft 9 in)
  • Wingspan: 9.94 m (32 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 3.98 m (13 ft 1 in)
  • Wing area: 16.70 m2 (179.64 ft2)
  • Empty weight: 4,480 kg (9,880 lb)
  • Useful load: 3,000 kg (6,600 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 9,100 kg (20,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1× Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour Mk. 951 turbofan producing 29 kN thrust


  • Never exceed speed: Mach 1.2 (in dive)
  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.84 (1,028 km/h, 638 mph) at altitude
  • Range: 2,520 km (1,360 nmi, 1,565 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 13,565 m (44,500 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 47 m/s (9,300 ft/min)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.65


  • 1× 30 mm ADEN cannon, in centreline pod
  • Up to 6,800 lb (3,085 kg) of weapons on five hardpoints, including:4× AIM-9 Sidewinder or ASRAAM or A-Darter on wing pylons and wingtip rails
  • 1,500 lb (680 kg), limited to one centreline and two wing pylons (Hawk T1)

The Hawk-I Program

HAL developed hawk I as an upgrade package for the existing fleet of 123 hawks in the service of the IAF, primarily replacing the British mission computers with the Indian ones using the algorithms which were used in Jaguar Darren II and Darren III upgrades. But the Hawk-I platform turned out to be quite impressive with its close air support capabilities with its high survivability, low stall speed, and good maneuvering capabilities.

Recently a few months ago the Hawk successfully fired the DRDO’s Smart anti-airfield weapon aka SAW. This was surprising as it made clear HAL’s intentions to modify the hawk as a light fighter bomber. So far India has developed all the crucial avionics required for a fighter. Thus the Hawk I can be equipped with scale downed versions of Uttam AESA Radar, Countermeasures dispensing systems, electronic warfare suits, missile approach warning systems.

The hawk comes with 5 hardpoints and an extra two can be added on the wingtips taking the total to 7. Hawk-I has been integrated with ASRAAM short-range Air to air missiles for self-defence. Apart from that several other indigenous bombs can be integrated into it which would make it perfect for hit and run missions.

Keeping the two-front war scenario and depleting squadron strength of the Indian Airforce, upgrading the entire 123 hawk fleet of the Airforce with the Hawk I upgrade makes sense as there will be 123 additional combat-ready fighters to answer the nation’s call of duty if required. Hawk being very cheap to produce and operate makes it suitable for the airforce to acquire additional numbers to meet the required squadron strength. Thus Hawk-I could be a possible cost-effective backup for the Indian Airforce.



Sheershoo Deb

I am a defense aspirant preparing to be an officer in the prestigious Indian armed forces. Earning the prestigious blue uniform is my dream.

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