India’s Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT) programme is facing a major blow after a bribery scandal involving Rolls Royce in connection with contracts to supply aircraft engines to state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited surfaced.
According to various reports, the Indian government on March 2 has ordered a CBI probe into allegations that global engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce committed irregularities and violated contractual provisions to bag contracts worth over $1.6 billion from 2007 to 2011.
The decision comes weeks after alleged arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie was arrested in the United Kingdom in a bribery scandal involving Rolls-Royce.
The development could have serious implications on the AJT programme. India has ordered 143 twin-seater Hawk AJTs, which are powered by Adour Mk.871 engines of Rolls-Royce, in an overall project cost worth well over $4 billion. While the first 24 Hawks were supplied directly by BAE Systems, the rest are being licensed manufactured by HAL.
If charges are proved, the Indian Air Force’s other projects will be affected along with black-listing of the London-based company. At present, Rolls-Royce engines power the IAF’s C 130J Super Hercules special operations aircraft, Jaguar strike fighters and Embraer luxury jets for VVIPs.
No official comments have been made by either companies. HAL officials were quoted as saying by The Times Of India, "would not officially talk" on the issue since it was now being handled by the MoD and CBI. Rolls-Royce's India and South Asia president, Kishore Jayaraman, in turn, said, "Unfortunately, I have no comments for I have not seen anything yet, whatever this is."