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India, Britain sign AJT deal

Last updated on: March 19, 2004 18:11 IST

The Indian Air Force will receive 66 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers under a memorandum of understanding signed between India and Britain on Friday.

The MoU assures that there won't be any hitches "either in supply, or production and maintenance" of the AJTs, said Defence Secretary Ajay Prasad, who signed the £795 million deal with British High Commissioner to India Sir Michael Arthur.

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The first batch of 22 jets will be manufactured in Britain. British Aerospace System and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited will sign separate contracts for the licensed production of the remaining AJTs in India.

India has suffered severely in the maintenance of military products supplied by Britain because of various sanctions, especially after the 1998 nuclear tests. It had to cannibalise some Sea King helicopters and other systems to keep the rest operational.

The MoU also assures that 75 IAF pilots will be trained in Britain on the AJTs.

The AJTs represent a new step in training for Indian pilots, who after flying Intermediary Jet Trainers now go straight to single-engine supersonic fighters like MiG-21. Lack of advanced jet training is believed to be one of the reasons behind the high number of IAF fighter crashes.

Prasad said all outstanding issues of the deal have been resolved to the satisfaction of both sides.

However, he did not specify how they settled the massive difference over some 275,000 man hours of work.

As the two sides began final consultations last week, the Hawk manufacturers told India that they would only provide drawings for some of the tools required for the manufacture of the 44 AJTs in India under transfer of technology. There are over 20,000 tools listed for the transfer of technology.

The cost of converting these drawings into tools in Britain was initially estimated at almost £30 million. The British side brought down this estimate to about £10 million late last week after days of wrangling.

The Indians said if they made the complicated tools in India the entire project would be delayed. The British argued that they calculated and agreed to the contract amount based on the understanding that they would give India drawings.

The cost of £795 million that was announced on Friday seems to be almost the same as what had been announced early this year after the Cabinet Committee on Security's approval.

Highlights of the deal:

> Britain will provide full support and cooperation for the supply as well as licensed production of the jets from British Aerospace System and other associated equipment manufacturers.

> The UK will not impose any restrictions or prohibitions at any time during the operational life of the aircraft and on the continued supply of aircraft, products, associated equipment, information, technology, replacement parts and any related supplies and services.

> It will facilitate agreements concerning licensed production of the products and associated equipment.

> Mounting and use of equipment and weapon systems of British origin, purchased from there or produced in India under licence, for the AJT will not be objected to.

> The British government will take reasonable steps within the international law to avoid unjustified prohibitions placed by other countries on the supply by British Aerospace Systems and other associated UK equipment manufacturers.

> It will ensure that the price and conditions negotiated by British Aerospace Systems and other associated UK equipment manufacturers are fair and reasonable and comparable with the terms, price and conditions negotiated by UK government for their own contracts.

> The certification authority of the UK government will issue a Certificate of Usage as a military aircraft to the AJT, which will establish that the aircraft is airworthy as per UK government standards.

> The UK government will confirm standards of construction and quality employed by British Aerospace Systems to address Indian concerns of safety.

> It will train 75 IAF pilots on Hawk AJTs.

> The MoU will be effective from the date of contracts between the Indian government and British Aerospace Systems. It will remain in force for 25 years. Thereafter, it will be deemed to have been automatically extended for a period of 10 years unless either government notifies the other for its termination.

Josy Joseph in New Delhi