The 'Red Arrows', the world-renowned aerobatics display team of the Royal Air Force, is in Delhi ahead of Indian Air Force Day celebrations on October 8, where they will perform an aerial salute before Air Chief Arup Raha. With 9 pilots and over 90 technical staff and engineers, the Red Arrows are the same formidable aerobatics display team that had decorated the skies of London with the Indian flag during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's maiden visit to the United Kingdom in November 2015.
The Red Arrows fly the famous Hawk jets, a British single-engine jet-powered advanced trainer aircraft. Interestingly, the Hawk has become a symbol of not just British excellence but also Indian manufacturing and technical development. They are a key symbol of the India-UK partnership, especially under the 'Make in India' project. "The Hawks are made by the British BAE systems. They are manufactured here now, in Bengaluru, in your own indigenous, organic manufacturing plant," said Air Marshall Turner, a pilot with the Red Arrows.
The project he referred to was a massive deal under which 123 Hawk jets were commissioned by the Indian Air Force and Navy in 2015. Of these, 99 Hawks, produced in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., using parts supplied by BAE Systems and engines by Rolls Royce, are expected to roll out in 2017. The Hawks however are not the only things that are 'Made in India'.
Pilots and technical staff of the Red Arrows have deep and direct associations with the Indian Armed forces in terms of training and skilling.
"I was trained in India. I was at the defence services staff college in Wellington. We had lots of opportunities there where we worked together, I trained together with Indians," said a pilot. "I remember exercise Indradhanush, which was over 10 years ago. The Indian Air Force came across to England and a group of us from our air force came over to Agra," said a woman engineer of the Red Arrows, highlighting the sustained degree of contact between the two Air Forces.
"I was a graduate of the Wellingston Staff College, a graduate of the National Defence College, and you will find across Britain nearly all of us have done some sort of course or training alongside India. And what that gives us is a shared military culture and a shared way of looking at the world," said Mark Goldsack, defence attache to the British envoy.