India is seriously considering an offer from United Kingdom of eight second-hand Royal Navy BAE Systems Sea Harrier for utilizing them as training aircraft, a leading defence weekly has claimed.
The eight aircraft - the last Sea Harriers remaining in the service - would operate as training aircraft to support the existing Indian Navy Sea Harrier FRS-51 fleet.
"We initiated the offer to acquire the Sea Harriers after we came to know that the RN was pulling hem out of service. We hope to get a good deal," Rear Admiral Sunil Damle, Indian Assistant Chief of Naval Staff told the Jane's Defence Weekly.
Damle said an Indian Navy team had visited the UK to inspect the Sea Harriers, which are being retired by 801 Naval Air Squadron, based at RNAS Yeovilton in southwest England, by the end of next month.
The admiral, however, was unsure whether the Indian Navy would buy six or all eight aircraft, adding that a 'clearer picture' regarding the exact number would emerge once negotiations progressed.
The deal for the Sea Harriers was likely to be signed in fiscal year 2006-07, the report said, quoting Indian defence ministry sources.
UK Minister for Defence Procurement Lord Drayson, leading an official British delegation to Defence Expo '06 in New Delhi earlier this month, confirmed the Sea Harriers had been offered to the Indian Navy and that negotiations were 'ongoing'.
Quoting official sources, the report said the fighters' AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) capability would be removed before the aircraft are handed over to the Indian Navy.