Hawk Eye on Progress

HAL upgraded Hawk-i brings to the IAF a combat-ready platform

Jaison Deepak

Bengaluru: Former defence minister Arun Jaitely dedicated the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) upgraded Hawk-i to the country August 26. HAL terms it as an indigenous role change development programme to convert the jet trainer into a combat-ready platform. The Hawk-i programme is more than what meets the eye, even though predominantly being an avionics upgrade without altering the airframe/engine, it does open up the possibility of adding a multitude of capabilities never before possible with the Hawk platform. HAL believes that by demonstrating the advertised capabilities it can evince interest from the Indian Air Force (IAF) for upgrading its existing Hawk fleet or to purchase new builds.

Hawk Eye on Progress

Interaction with senior HAL officials and the test pilot at the event provided interesting insights into the programme and the aircraft itself. The primary objectives of the programme are to:

  • Manage the obsolescence of imported avionics
  • Improve HAL’s autonomy in integrating new systems
  • Bring in enhanced capabilities to the Hawk airframe

Obsolescence Management

In the near future, the IAF hawks will find their avionics and associated software increasingly difficult to support due to the reduced availability of electronic (usually due to closed production) aggregates and expiry of software licenses from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). This is a common phenomenon on all aircraft avionics but imported ones complicate the challenge of managing it.

Replacing the individual components one by one as they become obsolete is a tedious task and compatibility with software will also need to be figured out. Instead, upgrading them with newer indigenous avionics will make sure that fleet can be supported much more effectively in the years to come. Since the avionics are also supported by local software, the issue of license expiry doesn’t arise and it can be upgraded as and when required.




Enhanced Autonomy in Systems Integration

The integration of the indigenous dual redundant Mission Computer (MC)-based open architecture system with MILStd-1553B and RS422 data buses throws up new possibilities in the integration of new systems and weapons locally without depending on the OEM. The main functions of MC are Bus Controller (BC), sensor and mode management, display generation, navigation and weapon aiming computations. It also interacts with the Stores Management System (SMS) which provides the link between the MC and the weapons pylons.

Enhanced Capabilities

Counter surface force operations (CSFO): According to test pilot Wing Commander Pratyush Avasthi, in the event of war all possible platforms would be used in combat and the Hawk will be no exception. According to the IAF doctrine the role of CSFO to support the army is emphasised upon especially when the targets are inaccessible to the artillery.  Some think tanks express that some of the impediments to CSFO operations are the scarcity of IAF air assets, identifying friend from foe among the ground units and the pilots ability to understand the ground situation at hand when communication between the Forward Air Controller (FAC) and the pilot is jammed.

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