David Cameron’s Indian visit has landed Britain’s defence giant BAE Systems with £125m deal of supplying 12 Hawk training jets to Indian military, guaranteeing the future of Red Arrows, which was speculated to be scrapped as part of defence cuts. David Cameron vowed that the much-loved RAF display team would be protected even if he orders fresh cuts. The Red Arrows deal could mean a boost for BAE System’s jobs at its plants in Lancashire and East Yorkshire. Recently, the defence giant hired 400 apprentices in its largest recruitment drive in five years.
The aircraft are understood to be for the Indian Air Force’s 52 Squadron display team, known as Surya Kiran or the “Sun Rays”. In a bid to secure the contract, David Cameron even told Indian PM Manmohan Singh that Britain would be willing to help train the team. RAF engineers would be prepared to advise on how to attach smoke pods to allow the orange, green and white colours of the Indian national flag to be painted across the sky, the UK prime minister told his Indian counterpart. David Cameron and Manmohan Singh discussed the Red Arrows after India signalled that it was prepared to buy another tranche of Hawk jets to strengthen its military acrobatics team. India bought 66 of the jets in 2004 and a further 57 in 2008.
A Downing Street source confirmed that as long as David Cameron remained in Number 10 the Red Arrows would continue to grace Britain’s skies. The Red Arrows are often seen at major national events in the UK and were prominent at celebrations last year for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. The team is based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, although has been temporarily relocated to RAF Cranwell, also in Lincolnshire, while maintenance work takes place on the runway at Scampton. The Red Arrows were formed in 1965 at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire – their formal title remains the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.