India's Hawk-i trainer jet gets deadly ASRAAM air-to-air missile

India Hawk ASRAAM missile
HAL Hawk-i equipped with Advanced Short Range Air-Air Missile (ASRAAM).

India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Hawk-i trainer jet is receiving deadly air-to-air weapons. An image recently posted on Twitter by experimental test pilot Harsh Vardhan Thakur shows the aircraft with an AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air-Air Missile (ASRAAM) mounted at the wing tip.

The ASRAAM is a next generation infrared guided air-to-air missile designed and built by MBDA UK for close-range combat. It allows the pilot to fire and then turn away before the opposing aircraft can close for a shot. It is currently in service with the Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Indian Air Force (IAF).

The IAF had previously announced its plan to equip the Jaguar fleet with ASRAAM and subsequently also introduce the missile on Su-30MKI and Tejas fighters. The image confirms that the weapon could also be received by the Hawk Mk132 fleet. The purpose of the Hawk-i is to test new weapons for the aircraft of the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy, both of which use the type as an advanced trainer.

"The Hawk-i project (or upgraded Hawk) seeks to equip the trainer jet with combat capabilities through an internally-funded HAL programme. HAL is in talks with the IAF and navy for the weaponisation of their Hawks," officials said.

This means that the Indian armed forces could soon operate the Hawk as a multi-role fighter jet since the Hawk-i also tested air-to-ground weapons last January.

Today, many air forces are looking to introduce light combat aircraft (LCA) to complement the 30-ton frontline fighters in order to reduce operating costs. The LCA are used where high performance jets are not required. This is why the market trend is predicting an increase in LCA sales over the next decade and major aerospace companies are aiming to develop armed variants of their trainers. They are also appealing to those nations with low budgets.

The ASRAAM for example is mounted on RAAF F/A-18 Hornet and RAF Typhoon fighters. It will also be fixed to the British F-35 Lightning IIs. However, the costs per flight hour and maintenance of these platforms are far higher than those of the Hawk-class aircraft.

Written by Matteo Sanzani

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